Baruch MBA Honors Students Offer a Timely Message to Local Youth

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Echo Winners 2009

MBA Honors student Dave Sedelnick reviews financial terms with Norman Thomas High School students.

Echo Winners 2009

The student-on-student workshop makes for a unique learning platform.

For the second time this year, full-time Baruch College MBA students organized a workshop with nearby high school students to discuss financial issues like budgeting, smart credit card usage, investments and insurance — subject matter that gets little recognition in the average high school classroom but is becoming more and more critical for young adults.

Yet, when MBA Honors student Cindy Chang set out to develop a program that would help young adults become more financially literate, she had no idea just how timely the initiative would become. In the weeks and months after her group “FLY” (Financial Literacy for Youth) celebrated their first successful workshop with local high school students, unemployment numbers would spiral further downward, the national deficit would hit record highs, and unease about personal financial security would grow among American families.

Going into their second workshop, it was clear that all 30 MBA student volunteers felt pride and commitment toward their initiative. Kevin Ng, an Industrial/Organizational Psychology Master’s candidate and second-time FLY volunteer noted, “Under Cindy’s direction this group has come to benefit both the [high school] students and us. You learn from both sides. And it provides great satisfaction to be part of a good outreach program.” The workshop was held on the 14th floor of the Newman Vertical Campus, where MBA student volunteers led a total of six different classes on various financial topics, with approximately 15 high school students to a class. The MBA student volunteers encouraged participation by asking for and discussing real life examples of key financial terms, role-playing, and engaging in mock investment games with their pupils.

The high school students who participated did so on a strictly voluntary basis, though accompanying 11th grade teacher Robert Almonte said he offered extra credit as a way of encouraging his classes to participate. The student-on-student learning platform seemed to have left a strong impact on kids who had participated in the Spring session and Almonte said he was eager to offer it to his students again. Cesar Ayala, one of the Norman Thomas high school participants, was enthusiastic about the program too. “The student teachers were really fascinating. They did a great job and it wasn’t all serious; they also made it fun,” he said. Junior Achievement New York, a non-profit organization that connects volunteers with students in grades K-12, aided in the recruiting of Norman Thomas high school students for both the Spring and Fall workshops.

However, it was not just the high school students who had a chance to walk away with valuable life lessons; FLY was, after all, developed with MBA students in mind. “It’s a leadership learning platform. We are students too; by donating our knowledge, we strengthen our skills at the same time,” Chang said.

This year, along with disseminating information about financial management to high school students, FLY also had the opportunity to build upon what was learned from the peer evaluations they conducted last spring. As MBA student volunteer Daniel Fischer explained, “Evaluations are key. They help us learn how to stay engaged with the students, and how to respect everyone’s unique style [of teaching].” In addition, since this is Chang’s last year in the MBA Honors program, Fall semester volunteer recruitment and training was focused especially on cultivating leaders who could take the reins and help manage the continuation of — and, ultimately, the expansion of — FLY in the coming years, a goal that has become increasingly important in light of the current economic situation.

—Adrienne Rayski