UMB donates learning space to nonprofit teaching metro students basic money skills

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Money doesn't grow on trees.

It's that kind of financial wisdom one metro nonprofit has been teaching, and now, that group is growing thanks to some help from one of the metro's top banks.

Good sense means as much as dollar bills. Thanks to UMB, even more metro students will learn why money matters so much.

"Your first paycheck will be two thirds of your salary," an instructor said, addressing a group of students on Friday morning.

UMB has donated space at its financial district headquarters, where field trip students will learn about running a business, paying taxes and budgeting their own cash.

Sue-Ann Johnson, School of Economics' executive director, said the partnership began when UMB employees began volunteering at the group's original facility in Blue Springs.

"(Kids) don't understand you need to earn money and have money before you spend it," Johnson said. "(UMB) saw an opportunity and they came to our nonprofit organization and said, 'What if we were able to find you another space? What if we were able to find you something in the urban core center of Kansas City to put it within reach of many of our underserved districts?"

Summer school students from James Elementary School were in that learning space on Friday.

The ultimate goal of the course is for participants to pay off the business loan they received from the bank to begin with. Anahi Morales, a fourth grade student, was among the students who used the lesson's pretend money to buy lunches while keeping their pretend business going.

"We've learned about scarcity and how if there's only a few of something, like an item, then the price goes higher. If there's a few item, it could go lower," Morales said.

School of Economics has been in business for more than 25 years. This second location will allow economic pros to teach more students how money flows, regardless of their family's financial situation.

As it stood with only the original location, more than 12,000 kids took the course each year. Johnson said it was a priority to take the nonprofit's programming to students at underserved schools.

Jen Houston, UMB's community relations manager, said her institution loves this mode of education since it engages learners actively and gives today's young people a financial sense that students of the past may not have received in school.

Giving these teachers a second learning space will make future spenders smarter.

"It's things these kids will learn for the rest of their lives," Houston said. "They're learning the basics of banking. They not only have to pay back that loan, but there's interest. They're also paying taxes because we know that's part of the economy."

School of Economics' UMB location is a pilot program for the time being, but it will go full-time in September, as fall classes begin.

The nonprofit's leaders estimate 300,000 metro kids have graduated from their money-minded classes. Johnson said her group has a 10-year lease with UMB, and the bank is charging only $1 per year.

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