Financial Literacy Project teaches middle school students to invest in themselves

5/25/2022

 

LITTLE ROCK—On certain Fridays between December and May, students funneled into the library at Dunbar Magnet Middle School in Little Rock to learn about financial literacy. Twenty-four sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students volunteered for a 12-lesson pilot program to learn skills to invest in themselves and develop their human capital. Economics Arkansas, in a partnership with the Arkansas Securities Department (ASD), developed the Financial Literacy Project, which is a 12-lesson program that includes hands-on activities, speakers and a $10 Challenge to launch a business. The $10 Challenge was created by Economics Arkansas for high school students and modified for middle schoolers, and a grant was provided by the ASD.

By learning financial literacy, the students gained knowledge and skills to take into adulthood. At the beginning of the program, the students who chose to participate in the $10 Challenge were given $10 and asked to begin a small business and turn in the results of their entrepreneurial endeavors on April 29. A team from ASD interviewed each participant at the end of the program and determined which students demonstrated the most creativity and initiative by launching a business with just $10 seed money. 

Seventh grader, Phebe Lopez, won the challenge with her cookie business. Phebe took the seed money and purchased ingredients for chocolate chip and sugar cookies. She sold most of the cookies to her classmates. She said she found that the chocolate chip cookies sold better than the sugar cookies. By the end of the challenge, Phebe had profited more than $60. She plans to keep her business going and possibly expand her line of baked goods.  

“Phebe is a seventh-grade student who is very bright,” Dr. William Delsa said about his student. “While I missed the class on her cookie business, I am not surprised that she won the $10 Challenge. She is a hard worker who always does her best in whatever she sets her sights on. Especially after winning this challenge, I would not be surprised to find that Phebe is a successful entrepreneur as an adult or possibly even sooner.” 

Phebe said she was so excited to be given the grand prize: a Nintendo Switch. 

The students also participated in Get Real Here’s the Deal, which is two-part hands-on lesson offered by the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Office. The students realized, depending on their assigned family responsibilities, how much it costs to afford necessities and luxuries in adulthood while learning how to write checks and balance a bank account. 

“Financial literacy should be a class at all middle schools, especially schools, like Dunbar, with students from lower income families,” Delsa said. “Students are not taught financial literacy at home or in school and have no idea of income, taxes and expenses. This class was composed of bright students, but none said that their parents had talked about the issues discussed in this class. More than one student has told me it has been eye-opening.”   

The students also learned about investing, financial frauds and swindles, savings, and setting financial goals.

“It has been our privilege to partner with Dunbar Magnet Middle School, the Little Rock School District and the Arkansas Securities Department with this incredible pilot program,” said Marsha Masters, associate director, Economics Arkansas. “We think it’s important for students to invest in themselves and develop their human capital. These amazing students have shown us how they can use the economic way of thinking as they participated in a variety of activities related to personal finance and entrepreneurship. We are grateful for the amazing speakers who have invested in these students, also. We can’t wait to hear of their future success.”

Plans are being explored to continue the program next school year. 

“We are grateful to the outstanding students at Dunbar Magnet Middle School who gave us their time, attention and talents in launching this successful pilot program” said ASD Interim Commissioner Campbell McLaurin. “We also need to give special thanks to Economics Arkansas, the Little Rock School District, and the school administration and faculty who made this program possible by lending their extensive knowledge and resources. We hope to find ways to continue this program as we expand our ongoing efforts at the ASD to improve financial literacy in youth across Arkansas.” 

The ASD offers presentations on financial literacy, frauds and scams, cryptocurrency, elder abuse and investor education for students and adults. Please contact Jeanni Brosius at (501) 683-3623 or jeanni.brosius@arkansas.gov to learn more.

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