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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 3, 2008 | Vol. 38 No. 10
Giving Teens a Taste of Credit, Debit and the Stock Market

JHU undergrad Andrew Xiao works with students at the Academy for College and Career Exploration. Standing is Ken Yook of the Carey Business School faculty.
Photo by Jay VanRensselaer / HIPS

By Amy Lunday

A Johns Hopkins-based financial literacy program is doing its part to prevent a future global economic crisis, one Baltimore high schooler at a time.

Created by junior Lucas Kelly-Clyne and taught by two Carey Business School professors, Save the Future is a 12-week after-school course that starts with basic skills like opening a checking account and knowing the difference between credit and debit cards, and then builds up to more advanced investment concepts like understanding the stock market.

Each Wednesday this fall, Kelly-Clyne and four fellow undergraduate tutors have joined finance faculty members Kwang Soo Cheong and Ken Yook in teaching the course to 20 students at the Academy for College and Career Exploration, an "innovation high school" operated by the Institute for Policy Studies. The program receives funding from the Center for Social Concern.

"I feel great to be a part of this project," said Cheong, an associate professor. "It's timely in the sense that these high school students get to understand some of the financial terms that they frequently hear from media or overhear from adults' conversations during the current financial crisis."

While such courses for children and teens are common, Save the Future's relationship with the Carey Business School separates it from the pack, Kelly-Clyne said: While conducting research for his business plan, he found that no other programs have attempted to form a unique partnership with an American university to create a certificate program like Save the Future. (Students are slated to receive their certificates in financial literacy during a ceremony on campus in December.)

The pilot program began on Sept. 10, a few days before Wall Street's collapse. But Kelly-Clyne had already spent the past two years developing Save the Future, inspired by his own burgeoning interest in the stock market and his realization that young people need a better grasp on the ins and outs of the financial world.

"I had done some tutoring [with high school students] but had taken a break from it," said Kelly-Clyne, a political science major with a minor in the Whiting School's W.P. Carey Program in Entrepreneurship & Management. "I was disillusioned with the impact I was having. I wasn't sure I was getting through to them. So I thought about what high school kids really need to know and came up with this program. Students walk away with skills for professional success and an important resume credential in a competitive environment."

The final execution of the program came together quickly this past summer when Kelly-Clyne approached Pamela Cranston, vice dean for operations at the Carey Business School, with his business plan. Cranston then suggested Cheong and Yook to help launch the program, which Yook said fits with the vision that their dean, Yash Gupta, has for the Carey Business School.

"The Carey Business School is committed to transforming business education through a humanistic approach," said Yook, an associate professor. "Faculty, students and staff are encouraged to be attentive to critical social issues. Certainly reaching out to the local community should be a first step in this endeavor."

For Cheong, the most appealing part of the project was the chance to work with young people. "Helping high school students enhance their financial literacy is such a rewarding opportunity to provide the long-lasting benefit of education to those who will soon enter our society through various career paths."

Working with teenagers requires switching gears for professors accustomed to dealing with graduate students, Cheong said. A big challenge is to make the lecture interesting from a high school student's perspective. "An adult student would typically bring up an example of gas or food prices if she wants to speak about inflation these days; however, our classroom discussion about inflation was centered around the price of a haircut because an increase in the haircut price is more relevant and real for these high school students since they themselves make the payment and remember what they paid in the past."

The professors said they are pleased by the hard work Kelly-Clyne and the other undergraduate tutors — Andrew Boudreau, Sameer Bhalla, Andrew Xiao and Riaz Virani — have invested in the project.

"I was impressed by their driving force to launch this program so rapidly," Yook said. "When I talked to them in July, I didn't expect that they could launch this program in September. Also, their sincere humanistic desire to help out inner city teenagers is evident. As our young generation is taking a growing interest in social issues, I believe we are headed for a brighter future."


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