Elementary Financial Literacy

English: Fraser Valley Elementary School classroom

Back in school

It’s one thing to contribute monetarily and ‘check the box’ to fulfill a corporate charitable obligation. It’s quite another thing when a group of NYSE employees become ‘teachers’ and contribute a day of their time directly with kids who will benefit from the program. Our group made a city trek from Wall Street to Brooklyn’s PS 249 for a day of teaching as part of the Junior Achievement Program. The 16 NYSE employees from the Global Corporate Client Group and NYSE Technologies did not know what to expect when we showed up for special training to prepare us, and many of us walked out of the 2 hour training session thinking ‘what did I get myself into?’ To a person, all of us walked into PS 249 with feelings typical of a 3rd grader…..we all had butterflies in our stomachs and exited with feelings of optimism, as well as a bit of ‘what’s next?’

Our goal was to teach Financial Literacy to third graders. We were all thinking the same thing you are – financial literacy with third graders? How are we going to talk about that from 9am to 2pm with a group where over 90% of the students live below the poverty line, not all speak English and some have special needs? We were given a well organized ‘tool-kit’ including programming ideas, topics, the obligatory stickers, and worksheets. We took it up a notch with our own contribution of candy and donuts. While we all walked into that school with a fair amount of cautious optimism, we walked away from our day as teachers thinking we may have gotten the better end of the deal! We were taught some valuable lessons by some very cool, very smart 8 year olds.

The children discussed with us how to work as a team, how to vote, and how to make their communities a better place to live via ideas such as starting new businesses. It was during these exercises that the children impressed us with what they did in their communities and why they feel their communities are great places to live. We noted that some of the things the children were suggesting are just as applicable in our schools and neighborhoods. We also were inspired by the generosity of these ‘needy’ children. During one module, the question posed was ‘What would you do with the money you made in our fictitious donut shop?’ The responses were a mixture of the heartfelt and hilarious which left some of us speechless. Their suggestions included giving back to the poor, contributing to their church to help many others, and simply helping their own parents. For the record, one child said they would invest it, so maybe somebody on the team made a financial literacy breakthrough! These children are wiser than we would want them to be, but they are also full of the energy and a thirst for knowledge that we hope all our kids can maintain throughout life.

For many of us, this ‘suggestion’ from management to participate in the NYSE Cares Program turned into an inspiration and one of the most enjoyable days we experienced during 2011. When we looked around, we saw the same tremendous energy, intellect and optimism we see in our own children’s schools. We also noted the difference in physical assets – smart boards and computers are relatively few – as well as the considerable efforts the teachers make to reach these children. The children reminded us as we went into the holidays that what matters most in school are much like life - family, friends, community and helping those around us. The teachers became students.

I do not think PS 249 has seen the last of the NYSE. The NYSE teachers thankfully made a positive impression on these children, and we were asked to come back in the spring. Hopefully we can come back with new lessons and some funding for JA as it’s a deserving organization doing high impact work. Either way, we’re certain the experience will be one of new lessons for us and the kids.  

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