Be Like Mike - Not Scottie - Financial Literacy Program Cautions Students

By Sam Cholke on January 11, 2013 5:28pm | Updated on January 13, 2013 8:28pm

 Vincent Yu, a University of Chicago undergrad and financial mentor, leads a session with high school students at the Moneythink Young Entrepreneur's Conference last year.
Vincent Yu, a University of Chicago undergrad and financial mentor, leads a session with high school students at the Moneythink Young Entrepreneur's Conference last year.
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Moneythink/Arlene Wang

HYDE PARK — Be like Mike — not Scottie.

That's the message University of Chicago students are bringing to South Side high school students, who they advise should to try and manage their money more like ex-Chicago Bull Michael Jordan instead of teammate Scottie Pippen.

The nonprofit organization Moneythink, which was started in 2010 by U. of C. undergrads, got a boost last week through a partnership with Teach for America, which will bring the program into 35 additional classrooms across the city in the spring. Currenly, Moneythink has programs at 13 schools across the city.

“Michael Jordan made more money in the past year than any year he was a player — and although certainly a large part can be attributed to his initial celebrity, he also learned how to manage his assets properly,” said Vincent Yu, a 20-year-old volunteer mentor and a math and economics major at the U. of C. “That is, he became financially responsible and independent by learning to start his own businesses and brand himself.”

Moneythink sends Yu and other college students to Englewood's Urban Prep Academy to lead 10 sessions on the basics of managing cash like Jordan, not Pippen, who reportedly lost millions through bad investments.

“We try to keep it basic: if you're saving, you’re investing in yourself,” said Joe Duran, Moneythink program director and a former Teach for America volunteer in the South Bronx.

Duran said the key is latching onto tools that students are using to track their cash.

“We try to veer away from stuff that’s outdated,” Duran said. “Instead of teaching kids to balance a check book — we think that’s kind of out of date — we teach them how to log into their checking account online.”

There’s also a spillover effect. A lot of high schoolers are getting to ask questions about the college experience from university students.

“Last quarter, I often had short asides with them about what college is like — whether or not there really is more freedom in financial or other matters,” Yu said of teaching at Urban Prep Academies’ Englewood school. “I think honestly this is one of the strengths and incentives of Moneythink: the fact that I and the other mentors can go into high school classrooms and relate to students that are only one to two years removed from where we were.”

Moneythink has plans to expand in coming years, but right now remains focused on teaching students in low-income neighborhoods on the South Side how to manage success.

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