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Ariel Education Initiative

In 1989, John W. Rogers, Jr. chairman and founder of Ariel Investments, created the Ariel Foundation. In 1991, the Ariel Foundation “adopted” forty sixth grade students at William Shakespeare Elementary on the south side of Chicago and promised to make college affordable for every student who graduated from high school. Through these efforts, the Foundation attempted to create a program that could serve as a model for serving inner city youth involving academic enrichment, mentoring, family support, leadership development and community service opportunities. The experience with the sixth grade class encouraged the Ariel Foundation to do more, starting with changing its name to Ariel Education Initiative (AEI) to better reflect its focus and mission. Today, AEI’s primary focus is Ariel Community Academy and its investment curriculum.

Ariel Community Academy

Through former Mayor Daley’s New School Initiative Program, Ariel was awarded a corporate sponsorship of a Chicago public school in 1996. Hence, the birth of Ariel Community Academy – a public school located on the south side of Chicago. Currently, Ariel Community Academy (ACA) offers classes from kindergarten through eighth grade serving 518 students and their families. Ninety-eight percent of the student body is African-American and over 85 percent of the students receive subsidized lunches. ACA chose to target the North Kenwood neighborhood precisely because it was one of the most underserved communities in Chicago. Today, the neighborhood is more vibrant, and ACA is a center for community and family life. ACA's impact extends well beyond the building itself, creating higher academic standards and achievements through a unique corporate-family-school partnership. In short, the vision remains to create a model community school — where the doors are always open; where teachers, parents and members of the community work in partnership to provide world-class educational opportunities and where financial literacy is not just taught but practiced.

Ariel Community Academy Results

The Academy has outperformed all schools in the district and is one of the top elementary schools in all of Chicago. Once again, in 2009 the Ariel Community Academy was a recipient of the Illinois Spotlight Schools Award under the Illinois Honor Roll program (this award recognizes academic progress in closing the achievement gap in poverty areas). Additionally, the Academy is one of the top performing schools on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) in the entire region.

Beyond the student achievement on standardized tests, almost 1/3 of Ariel graduates test out of Algebra before their freshman year — a major achievement considering the dire statistics around math competency and graduation rates in typical public schools.

Investment Curriculum

In addition to the mandated Chicago public school curriculum, Ariel Community Academy (ACA) has incorporated concepts of investing and financial literacy into the classroom. Through a partnership with Nuveen Investments, a Chicago-based investment and trust company, the Ariel-Nuveen Investment Program awards each incoming first grade class a $20,000 grant. This money is designated to the class as a whole and follows the students until their graduation.

In the early years the money is invested and managed by a group comprised of representatives from Ariel and Nuveen. However, as the students advance through the school’s unique investment curriculum, they become actively involved in making the investment decisions. In fact, a Junior Board of Directors (made up of sixth, seventh and eighth grade students) is ultimately responsible for deciding how the $20,000 is invested. Upon graduation all profits that have accumulated in the class’ account are divided in half. One half is given by the students in the form of a class gift to improve the school. The other half is distributed among the graduates as cash or matched contributions toward a 529 college savings plan, depending on each student’s choice. The original $20,000 grant is then turned over to the next incoming first grade class, making the program self-perpetuating.

In addition to the curriculum taught by the full-time Investment Program director, a veteran of the securities industry, ACA offers parents literacy/investment dinners where we arrange for speakers to lead discussions on a variety of topics ranging from the basics of investing and saving to the differences between a Roth and a Traditional IRA. The Investment Program Director, Connie Moran, was the recipient of the 2007 “Teacher of the Year” award from the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). This award is given to 40 teachers across the globe. Connie was the only recipient in Illinois.

The ultimate goal of the Ariel-Nuveen Investment Program is to increase economic and investment literacy within the African-American community and to bring the topic of investing to every dinner table in Black America.

Most recently, the Class of 2010 ended the year with a profit of nearly $8,000 in their 8th grade class account. After returning the original $20,000 to the incoming first grade class, they contributed $4,000 toward the purchase of chairs for the computer lab. For those students who opted for the 529 Plan, Ariel Education Initiative matched the graduates’ earnings with an additional $1,000.

Ariel Community Academy
Student Pledge
"I am an Ariel Student.

That means that I AM THE BEST.

The way that I show that I am the best is through: Good schoolwork, good behavior, good manners, and by being a good friend.

That's what it takes to be an Ariel Student."