This is the type of elementary school that many of us today only wished we could have attended. A Chicago grade school is making headlines because of their special curriculum. Ariel Community Academy on the South Side of Chicago was founded more than 20 years ago by John Rogers, founder and CEO of Ariel Investments and Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education. Doctors, Lawyers, Entrepreneurs, and Investment Brokers were all raised and graduated from this Chicago school.
This school teaches students about stocks, while they are in kindergarten, while also introducing them to financial literacy. According to Rogers:
“I tell people all the time that the best way to learn about investing is the way my father taught me, he gave me real money to invest in real stocks. That’s the heart of what makes our program work. It’s not a game.”
Here’s how the program works:
Kindergarten through 2nd Grade
Children learn the basics of Financial Literacy, diving into economics and personal finance. At this age, kids are taught about saving money and spending; they are also taught about wants verses needs. Principal Coleman goes on to explain how her kids begin to learn about the concept of finance, “They get an understanding that money comes from somewhere. You can earn it through talent or effort. Some people think and some people work with their hands.”
In kindergarten, students start with $20,000 contributed by Ariel ($10,000 per class for that grade level). During these early years, the portfolio is managed by Ariel &Nuveen Investments.
At the 3rd grade level, kids will begin to learn about stocks, bonds and and their curriculum.
At the 4th grade level, students learn about portfolios, picking stocks and managing stocks, entrepreneurship and creating business plans.
During 5th grade, students continue to learn what they started in the 4th grade.
By 6th grade, the students are now involved in the decision-making process of what happens within their portfolios that are being managed by Ariel & Nuveen Investments. By 6th grade, you are allowed to be on the Junior Board of Directors (comprised of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders) who decide how to invest the money until graduation.
In 7th grade, students are still continuing to be hands on with their investments, picking up where they left off in 6th gade
By 8th grade, their portfolio should have grown; the $20,000 they started off with provided by Ariel, goes to the following year’s Kindergartners and the process begins all over again. Any profit left over from the investment is divided; half goes back to the school and the other half goes to that year’s graduating class.
The average profit by a student’s 8th grade averages around $12,500. They have seen profits as high as $32,000! This is all – if a student uses their profit to open a college saving account, Ariel will match it with $500 gift toward their savings.
One student named Victoria started Ariel in the 6th grade, by 8th grade she was the Head of the Investment Committee, she explained in an interview:
“The moment I set foot in Ariel and saw that I could be a portfolio manager, that’s immediately where I wanted to go in life, I wanted to be in money management.”
Victoria went on to attend High School on a full scholarship, went to Babson College in Boston, and today she works at Ariel in institutional sales.
Rogers’ dream he had 20 years ago has blossomed and he gives wise advise to those trying to teach their kids about financial literacy:
“Sometimes financial literacy is all about keeping credit card debt low and how to manage a mortgage. All that is important. But in this day and age, you have to be a financial expert to prepare yourself for retirement. Pensions plans have been replaced by defined contribution plans (401(k) or 403(b)). Stock market knowledge is more important in this country than ever before. We need to keep up.”