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.