by Tori Hamby
While the nation continues to recover from the greatest economic recession since the Great Depression, two teams of North Mecklenburg High School students have taken it upon themselves to teach children about making money and spending it wisely.
As members of DECA, an international association of high school and collegiate business and marketing students and teachers, the students’ efforts are part of a larger goal to promote financial literacy and entrepreneurship throughout the entire Huntersville community. Both teams visited Huntersville Elementary School earlier this year to show students the relevance that the grown-up world of finances, investments and start-up businesses can have on their lives.
“Financial literacy is a lifelong lesson,” said Marieke Wood, who, along with partner Michele Salpietro, taught four classes about good spending and saving habits. “If we start teaching that lesson at a young age we can better the financial future of the community.”
Because thoughts about saving up for college or a new car has probably never crossed the mind of the typical third-grader, Marieke and Michele both wrote and illustrated a coloring book, titled “Green Dollar Bills,” based on the classic Dr. Seuss children’s book “Green Eggs and Ham.” After the presentation, the girls quizzed the kids, giving out prizes for correct answers.
“The kids thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it,” said third-grade teacher Crissy Payne. “The book they created was incredibly neat. They could have probably published it.”
The other North Meck team, consisting of seniors Tarryn Rutherford, Ashley Frost and Sara Tinsley and junior Delaney Galvin, also traveled to the school to teach students about the ins-and-outs of starting a business. Using a self-created board game called “Lemonland,” similar to children’s games such as “Candyland” and “Chutes and Latters,” they walked the third-graders through the seven steps of business creation.
“The game taught them how to develop an idea, plan, accumulate capital, buy supplies, set-up the business, advertise and open for business,” Tarryn said. “Certain spaces on the game board represented risks that come with starting a business–sending the player back a few steps–while others represented the benefits, sending the player forward. The game illustrated real-life scenarios, both good and bad, that can happen while opening your own business.”
The girls took the real-life lesson a step further at Davidson IB Middle School, where they divided students into teams of businesses, which collectively represented the “lemonade industry.”
Some players were tasked with selling ingredients, such as sugar and lemons, while others were told to “manufacture” lemonade. Sellers competed with each other to set competitive, yet profitable, prices for their ingredients, while manufactures tried to create their final product without going into debt.
“At the beginning of the game, we gave each group a loan so that they could build their business,” Tarryn said. “They knew they had to make enough money to cover their debt before they could use the profits to purchase lemonade.”
The efforts of both groups, which included other activities aimed at the Huntersville adult community as well, earned the students special recognition at this year’s DECA International Career Development Conference in Orlando, Florida. During the weeklong conference, more than 16,000 students from all over the world presented their projects to business and marketing experts, who evaluated the originality and success of each team’s strategy.
Marieke and Michele took home second-place honors in the Financial Literacy Promotion Project category, while Tarryn, Ashley, Delaney and Sara placed in the top-16 in the Entrepreneurship Promotion Project event. Each group had to qualify for the conference by advancing in district and statewide competitions.
“The whole experience was so exciting,” Ashley, first-year DECA member, said. “You get to see your hard work pay off, while meeting and learning from people who are just as excited about DECA as you are.”