The power to affect change is in everyone, and inspiration can come from anywhere. A casual conversation our senior vice president Darlene Esquerra had with her neighborhood UPS driver tipped her off to a continuing education program doing remarkable things. Darlene, who also serves as our institutional banking manager and community development officer, visited the L.A. area school, which is affiliated with John Muir Charter School, and met with the lead teacher at its GEM Academy (GEMA) program.
According to the school’s website, in the GEMA classroom, “Students work on a comprehensive graduation plan that incorporates academics with project-based learning. We offer career awareness, training in computer applications, job readiness, financial literacy, and civic engagement. We have on-site counseling services available and our students are engaged in volunteering and internship opportunities.”
The GEMA program focuses on academics, life skills, volunteer service and work experience through a variety of classes and experiences. The program is designed to include essential skills and practice the students need to make the most of their potential.
Darlene knew Grandpoint Bank could be a tremendous resource to the GEMA students, especially to help expand the financial literacy curriculum. Darlene and the GEMA instructors agreed that Grandpoint would develop a special program to give students (ages 16 to 25) a taste of managing a real-world budget. Our vice president and assistant compliance officer Njuguna Gishuru was eager to help, too.
Darlene and Njuguna created a curriculum that included five events, one for each week of their five-week program. The curriculum included two fairs and three classes. The classes focused on credit and new accounts, bank operations and budgeting.
Darlene and Njuguna recruited 15 volunteers from our bank. At the fairs, each volunteer was assigned to one of 6 tables:
- Registration / Career Choice
- Housing / Furniture
- Entertainment / Vacation / Electronics
- Wheel of Life / Saving & Investing – choose your Checking Account
- Food / Clothing / Transportation
- Credit Counseling
Each student made a career choice, with about 30 to choose from. Some changed their choice once they saw the estimated salary, realizing the glamour of the career they chose wouldn’t sustain them financially. The students were given their monthly salary in play money. Once they started “spending” their money on rent, insurance, transportation, groceries and incidentals at the various fair tables, they learned just how far that monthly salary would have to stretch.
During classes prior to the fair, students were issued fake debit cards that they could use for purchasing at the fair. Each student was given a profile to make the experience more realistic. The profile described their life circumstances, including whether they were married and/or had children.
During the simulation, students would spin a “Wheel of Life.” Whatever unforeseen financial expense or windfall they landed on, they would have to incorporate into their budget and financial decisions. If the students had money left over at the end of the fair, they learned how to open a bank account and save their money.
The five-week simulation program taught students, some of whom had never even been inside a bank, how to manage money more effectively and acquire real-life skills. Darlene and Njuguna received very positive feedback from the students and GEMA instructors. Two of the students landed real-world jobs during the course.
We are honored to be associated with GEM Academy. For more information about how you can help the school and its programs, visit https://www.gemacademyrocks.org/about-us or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Posted on April 18, 2017, in Charity and tagged civic engagement, Darlene Esquerra, financial literacy, GEM Academy, job readiness, John Muir Charter, Njuguna Gishuru, Project-based learning. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.