CEEE Hosts Three Events During April’s Financial Literacy Month

The Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE), part of the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics at the University of Delaware, hosted three impactful events during April’s Financial Literacy Month to continue its mission of teaching financial concepts and best practices to students across the state.

Teach Children to Save Day

A retelling of the “Jack and the Beanstalk” folk tale engaged elementary students around Delaware in April with lessons about the importance of saving and not being controlled by debt.

Each year, volunteers from banks and financial institutions in the region visit Delaware third- and fourth-grade classrooms as part of Teach Children to Save Day, a national event during financial literacy month.

This year’s event, the 26th, was sponsored in Delaware by CEEE in partnership with the Delaware Bankers Association. More than 200 classrooms signed up from 68 elementary schools, according to CEEE. Volunteers from 23 banks brought this literacy education to around 5,400 students altogether.

At Newark Charter Primary School, students in the third-grade class of teachers Stephanie Roberts and Julia Valladares got a visit from Kyra Giakas, an analyst for JP Morgan Chase. Giakas, who graduated with a degree in finance and economics in 2022 from Lerner College, read “The Amazing Money Stalk” to the children.

The comic book is part of a series by Greg Koseluk of the Delaware Bankers’ Association, featuring the magician the Great Investo, a hapless money manager who gets sound advice from his assistant Penny, but doesn’t always heed it.

In this story, students followed along as the Great Investo fell asleep and had a dramatic dream about the perils of fast cash and debt. After a sharp salesman sold Investo a magic bean, Investo planted it and was delighted when it sprouted into a plant with money for leaves.

Here Giakas paused, asking the kids if they thought Investo would waste his money. Pessimistic about the magician’s judgment by now, the class answered in the affirmative.

Things did not, in fact, turn out well for Investo, at least until he learned important lessons about saving versus accumulating debt.

Many of the students already had a grasp on the concept of banking (one child volunteered that her father also works at JP Morgan Chase). But they were able to get some further insights as they moved through the story, with Giakas taking time to explain the ideas.

Afterward, they did an exercise doing the math on a $100 loan to buy a scooter at 10 percent interest, and another looking at how money grows in a savings account. The math was a little tricky as they hadn’t learned decimals yet, but one problem-solving student quickly figured out that scanning the next month’s starting figure yielded the answer.

“So after three months, friends, you paid off $3,” Roberts told the kids as they examined the scooter loan’s principal. They did not seem to feel this was a good deal.

Afterward the students got to keep a copy of the book. “I love comic books,” one girl said when she heard the news.

“I feel that the scenario of saving money, and adding the interest on, really showed them how beneficial it can be to put money into an account where they earn interest,” Roberts reflected.

It was Giakas’ first time taking part in Teach Children to Save Day, and she said afterward that she thought every school should get involved. In her job, she’s seen the real-world consequences of people not having these financial skills.

“I am passionate about personal finance, and I love working with kids, so this was the perfect opportunity to make a difference by helping to instill healthy financial habits at a young age,” she said.

Funding the Future

It’s tempting to use the word “unusual” to describe a combination rock concert/financial literacy crash course. But that term just doesn’t seem quite right given that the band Gooding has now reached nearly 300,000 high school students in 35 states with both their music and their money management message.

The show came to Howard High School of Technology on April 17, led by founding member Steven Gooding, who does the tours through his nonprofit Funding the Future.

Students didn’t seem quite sure what to expect, but quickly warmed to the act, clapping along and cheering Gooding’s instrumental solos and feats like playing two guitars at the same time.

After the set, Gooding switched into a fast-paced monologue on responsible finances, explaining his own journey from wannabe rich rock star to a grownup who realized that a band is a small business.

Gooding’s group tours throughout the country and beyond, and has contributed music to a number of hit TV shows and movies. They visited other Delaware high schools during this trip, including Smyrna, Concord, and St. Mark’s.

“As much fun as it is to get lost in the music, I had to make a budget, I had to realize that I have to pay accountants, lawyers, manager, marketing, gas, food, hotels,” Gooding told the Howard students gathered in the auditorium.

He emphasized that many famous people don’t, in fact, have finances figured out despite their vast incomes.

“I know people who work at a post office may not be glamorous, but they put their money away young, and they’re millionaires. And … I know a bunch of people, no matter how famous they are, how cool they look on TikTok, how cool they look on Instagram, they are broke as a joke.”

Gooding emphasized sound principles like saving money starting young, investing in IRAs, and even went over the basics of a credit score and how a good one can make borrowing cheaper.

Afterward, he fielded questions from the students. Michaela Acheaphong, president of Howard’s Academy of Finance, asked what age they started saving (about age 30, not early enough but still in time to make a difference). Another student raised the issue of how hard it can be to save money (save for the necessities and budget for fun stuff too, Gooding advised).

CEEE has helped connect Gooding with Delaware schools for some time now and got the word out to Howard about the possibility of hosting the event.

“I just think this is amazing; I wish every student in the state could see it,” said Gail Colbert, personal finance coordinator at CEEE.

Jamai Robinson, instructor for Howard’s Academy of Finance, signed the school up for the Gooding performance. He came to teaching from the business world, where he worked at institutions like Wells Fargo. Robinson said he has attended CEEE programming and uses its resources in his classroom to teach the students about financial literacy.

“My seniors are now able to really dive into what they need to be prepared (for) life after high school,” Robinson said.

He called Gooding’s concert “a perfect mix” to make financial literacy fun and entertaining.

Personal Finance Challenge

Newark Charter School won its third straight state championship on April 24th.

The high school students weren’t competing on an athletic field, but testing their financial knowledge and skills.

The 15th annual Delaware High School Personal Finance Challenge was sponsored by Bank of America and hosted CEEE.

“It’s just so important for our young people to understand, once they have money, how important it is to manage that money, between saving and budgeting and then later on in life,” said Debbie O’Brien, market executive at Bank of America. The bank has been part of the event since its inception.

Almost all of the teams that take part use CEEE’s Keys to Financial Success curriculum, developed by CEEE and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, and provided free to participating Delaware schools. The competition is a chance for students to demonstrate what they’ve learned, have some fun and win prizes.

“Where else can you take a test and win money, right?” asked Scott Bacon, assistant director of CEEE, kicking off the event.

The students battled it out at the Executive Banquet and Conference Center in Newark. Competitive test taking is not what you’d call a raucous atmosphere; under the glass chandeliers, the large room was hushed as high-schoolers looked off into the distance in concentration, fiddled with their pencils, or put their hands on their chins. About a dozen Bank of America volunteers monitored the event and helped out as needed.

It got much louder and animated as the students took breaks for trivia competitions between rounds, and heard the point leaders announced.

Thirteen teams took part from eight schools, for a total of 60 students and teachers. Newark Charter led throughout, closely trailed by Appoquinimink. These two teams faced off in a final, quiz-style round, buzzing in to answer questions about the tax system, financial regulation and insurance that might stump many adults.

The teams started out trading points, then Newark Charter surged ahead. Appoquinimink staged a comeback, and then Newark Charter finally pulled away to seal the victory.

“It’s a day out, it’s a competition, it’s fun, it’s showing what you learned,” said Mike Renn, a social studies teacher at Newark Charter who led the team. He’s a graduate of Lerner’s Master of Arts in economics and entrepreneurship for educators who has taught CEEE’s financial curriculum for more than 20 years at different schools.

“It’s one of those things that no one teaches but everyone assumes that you’ll learn,” he said of financial literacy. “… Since kids come from a variety of backgrounds, it’s kind of important that they get the ideas of how finance works, how interest rates work, how credit works, how the choices you make today impact all these things.”

The Newark Charter team members, whose thorough preparation was evident, included William Soyer, Michael Zerenner, Thaddeus Gore, and Kourtney Warren. They credited Renn for their success, saying they had a good time.

The winners earned $500 each, and the second place team was awarded $250 each.

Events like this are a great way of promoting and encouraging financial education, said Mark Olazagasti, founder of financial literacy nonprofit YourMoney101. Olazagasti, who attended the event, is advocating for financial literacy in Delaware high schools via House Bill 203.

“Adults often forget what it was like to be 17, 18 years old, and having to start making money decisions with enticing financial offers from credit card and buy-now-pay-later companies lurking around the corner,” Olazagasti said. “So, it’s important for all students to receive this financial education before they enter adulthood.”

During lunch, the students also got to hear from Julia Bayuk, associate dean of curriculum at Lerner, who introduced them to the various programs and opportunities at the Lerner College and University of Delaware – including majors in finance, economics, financial planning and minors such as trust management and clubs like our Blue Hen Investment Club.

Bayuk congratulated the group on taking part in the competition.

“This is an impressive group, and I can’t wait to see where they go from here,” she said of the students.

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