New organization teaches finance

Sonia Katharani-Khan Sep 8, 2013

Last year, Carnegie Mellon alumna Sarah Peko-Spicer and director of undergraduate economics Carol Goldburg began to pilot a new chapter of Moneythink, an organization that serves underprivileged high school students.

Carnegie Mellon’s student-run Moneythink chapter seeks to prepare inner-city high school students for post-secondary education and financial management.

The chapter will be accepting fall membership applications until Wednesday; membership is open to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Sophomore statistics and economics major Anusha Kukreja, sophomore statistics and economics major Jillian Ward, and sophomore international relations and politics major Satvika Neti will lead the chapter in fall 2013.

Once accepted candidates are notified, mentors will travel to Pittsburgh schools once a week to provide in-class instruction. The chapter has already formed partnerships with Northside Urban Pathways Charter School and Westinghouse High School.

“In the CMU chapter, we have over 200 students that have expressed interest.... It’s amazing to see CMU becoming just as passionate about Moneythink as we are,” Ward said.

The establishment of a Moneythink chapter presents the Carnegie Mellon community with an opportunity to become part of a fast-growing force for change.

Moneythink’s mission has received nationwide recognition, and as a result, a number of nationally recognized organizations and corporations expressed interest in developing relationships with Moneythink members.

The national Moneythink team is working to establish employment pipelines for Moneythink mentors at corporations including J.P. Morgan and Chase.

“These employment pipelines are set up via partnerships with the corporations as well as through alumni currently working in these companies.” Kukreja said.

In addition, Moneythink recently established an alumni board, which has become a fast-growing internship resource for current mentors, and recently developed a partnership with Teach for America (TFA), according to Kukreja.

“The TFA partnership means that we are working closely with TFA teachers on a national level to get into more classrooms. It also means that our mentors are a selective pool of individuals being recruited by TFA. TFA values our mentors and is very interested in having them apply,” she said.

Other benefits for members include discounts at local businesses, as well as free or discounted packages for courses through organizations such as Kaplan and Wall Street Prep. Though a recent organization, Moneythink has already made lasting impacts. The organization was honored by President Obama in March as “a campus champion of change,” along with four other student organizations.

Kukreja, who attended the annual Moneythink Leadership Conference this summer, learned that through Moneythink courses, one student was able to use budgeting tactics to enable his family to keep the heat on through the winter, while another was able to save enough to buy his sister reading glasses so she could stop struggling to see the board and start keeping pace in her classes.

Though the organization has started by reaching out to high-need, low-income groups, it ultimately aims for a much larger scope.

“In talking to others, we’ve found that no matter the background, most high school students are not well informed about how to make and manage their money,” Kukreja said. “Moneythink’s mission is to make a financial literacy course mandatory for high school graduation by 2030.”

“We have a vision for Moneythink here at CMU, and the best part of joining now is getting to shape that vision, and graduate CMU leaving a legacy of the chapter and the impact it has in our city,” Ward said.

Moneythink members develop a curriculum and then travel to inner-city high schools once a week as “mentors” to teach the curriculum to students.

The organization originated at the University of Chicago, and has chapters at 30 universities across 10 states. In the spring of 2012, Family Services of Pennsylvania (FSWP) approached the Tepper School of Business to propose a partnership in creating a Moneythink chapter.

Following the FSWP visit, Goldburg attended the 2012 Moneythink Leadership Conference and initiated collaboration between FSWP and Carnegie Mellon economics students. FWSP brought members into contact with Pittsburgh public schools, and Peko-Spicer began going into classrooms as a Moneythink mentor.

“I loved the idea of giving back to the community [and I was] committed to founding the CMU Moneythink chapter,” Peko-Spicer said.

“We were all immensely excited upon hearing about the program,” Kukreja said via email. “Within a week, we were the three co-presidents of the CMU chapter, and it’s been an incredible journey, especially this summer, to see us work as a team to develop the chapter.”