Jordan Brand helps fund a grant to teach financial literacy in 19 Philadelphia schools

When Kerry Woodward moved from investment banking to education, she realized that students lacked confidence and understanding when it came to financial literacy.

“I ran a little after-school program at Boys’ Latin on personal finance,” Woodward said. “I saw that there was a major knowledge gap out of high school and college when it came to making important financial decisions.”

Now, as executive director of Philadelphia Financial Scholars (PFS), a program that began in 2016 as a partnership between Philadelphia-based asset management firm FS Investments and the University of Pennsylvania focused on providing financial education programs to high school students, Woodward wanted to implement personal finance into the curriculum of other Philadelphia schools in a way that would be sustainable and scalable, so that it could grow to serve students as quickly as possible.

His vision had begun to materialize after applying for a grant in March 2022 through Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF), an 8-year-old national nonprofit that aims to have students take at least one semester-long course in personal finance before graduating by 2030. PFS was selected, along with 11 city school districts , to receive additional funding to provide financial education classes at 19 Philadelphia district and charter schools, serving approximately 1,200 students.

PFS’s 19 partner schools include: Belmont Charter High School, Boys’ Latin High School, Building 21, Cristo Rey High School, George Washington High School, George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science, Frankford High School, Franklin High School, Freire Charter School, King High School, Lincoln High School, KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy, MaST Community Charter School, MaST Community Charter School II, Mastery Hardy Williams, Mastery Simon Gratz, Mastery Lenfest, Prep Charter and TECH Freire Charter School.

This year the grant, intended for various school districts across the country, increased the number of recipients from five districts to six, thanks to Michael Jordan and Jordan Brand, who donated a substantial amount of money, according to Tori Mansfield, Senior Program Manager of the NGPF.

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In Pennsylvania, less than 15% of high school students take a semester-long personal finance course, and the state is ranked among the worst in the nation in its efforts to teach financial literacy, according to a 2017 report by the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College.

Upon stepping into his new role, Woodward spoke to 44 principals from more than 50 public high schools in Philadelphia about the possibility of adding financial education classes.

“They shared that students were coming up to them saying I needed to learn the basic concepts of income and savings,” Woodward said. “But we’re a bit lost because there aren’t any statewide standards or guidelines, like there are for science or English.”

Woodward asked participating students to take a diagnostic exam, so that she can assess their understanding of financial stability.

The results showed that 65% of students said they did not feel confident in their ability to achieve financial well-being. While 15% said they could calculate the cost of a loan before borrowing, only 22% said they understood how to create and track a personal budget, according to Woodward.

“When you have this big gap in knowledge and understanding, it’s very hard to feel empowered to make smart financial decisions,” Woodward said. “I think filling that knowledge gap with our program is a key part of that equation.”

Thanks to the grant money, 21 teachers from the 19 partner schools are now trained and teach the lessons.

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Woodward’s ambition is to partner with at least 30 schools by next year and 50 schools by 2024, with hopes the organization can eventually work with all public high schools in Philadelphia. .

Louis R. Hancock