Since 2015, the LMU College of Business Administration has taught financial literacy each summer to local and underserved high school students in Los Angeles. The college considered postponing the program this year due to COVID-19, but ultimately decided to adapt it into a highly interactive virtual curriculum and experience.
“We realized that the community needed innovative educational programs more than ever and decided to design a program around the constraints rather than be limited by them,” said Jason D’Mello, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and program co-lead.
This year, the CBA partnered with the FoolProof Foundation to reach more high school students as financial literacy skills and habits ideally begin when earning income and before taking on loans. The Save-It-Forward Initiative (Powered by FoolProof) is the start of a much larger effort to share financial literacy with thousands of youth in Los Angeles (and nationwide) through this near-peer mentoring method to end cycles of poverty and economic disparities. The CBA is currently applying for government grants and other foundation support to extend the program throughout the year.
“The demand has grown so much that we had to find a way to scale the program to provide as many high school students the opportunity to learn the important life skill of financial literacy,” said D’Mello.
In addition, the CBA partnered with Black College Tours, ProjectECHO, LMU Family of Schools, HACLA and other organizations that work with students who live in public housing, foster children, and/or come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The program trains and provides paid internships to motivated LMU students to be near-peer mentors. This year, 10 talented LMU students were hired – many of whom lost their summer internships due to COVID-19 – to teach financial literacy to over 200 youth participants. The minimal age difference between students and instructors allows the content to be more relevant and teachable. Over the course of seven weeks (June 18 – August 7), student participants completed seven modules.
“Students not only learn how to use money as a tool for achieving their long-term goals, they learn the importance of healthy skepticism, instant vs. long-term gratification and a cautious point of view,” said Darlene Fukuji, associate director of the Fred Kiesner Center for Entrepreneurship and program co-lead.
The program was fortunate to have two wonderful alumni involved this year: Charity Waddy ’19 and Cliff Wang, MBA ’10. Both helped obtain sponsorships of donated prizes for high performing students and teams. Cliff even arranged a special guest appearance with YouTube stars, Our Rich Journey. Charity, who taught in the program two years ago, volunteered her time to lead a group of high school students.
“Our goal is to inspire the next generation of leaders and let them know that the community cares about them during this tough time and is investing in their future,” said Fukuji.