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Azusa Pacific Brings Real-World Finance to Local High School Students

by Kimberly Rios '13

Azusa Pacific University teamed up with the Azusa Unified School District and the Southern California Edison Federal Credit Union (SCE FCU) Foundation on Tuesday, October 22, 2012, to teach money management skills to local teens. The event, called Mad City Money, brought together more than 50 students from both Azusa and Gladstone high schools, who belong to Think Together, one of California’s largest providers of after-school tutoring.

“Mad City Money provides real-life experience for students who are about to graduate high school and face the world of finances,” said Carli Olson '13, a psychology major at APU who helped run the event.

At the beginning of Mad City Money, each high school participant randomly received an overview his or her fictional “life story.” This synopsis included a job, monthly income, and monthly expenses, including credit card debt, student loans, childcare, and health insurance. Each students’ life circumstance varied, with some making more income than others and others having significant expenses to consider.

After receiving their information, students visited booths, including a mall, a childcare center, a grocery store, and a home goods store, to “purchase” both necessities and wants. APU students enrolled in professor Adele Harrison’s Personal Finance course served as merchants and tried to convince the participants to buy their products. Even a mock credit union was on site to offer students financial advice.

“This service-learning opportunity enabled my students to guide high schoolers by sharing their knowledge on budgeting,” said Harrison.“Participants now know how to plan financially and understand how each decision they make affects them. Personal finance is about values and discipline.”

After visiting each of the booths, the students discussed their experiences in money management and budgeting. This reflection time allowed them to discover where they had succeeded and where they had fallen short.

“I learned that there are a lot of things you have to use your money for, not just the fun things,” said Mackenzie Esslin, an Azusa High School student. She was given the fictional income of a personal trainer, with credit card debt, students loans, and a child. “Sometimes you have to buy the cheaper things, even if you want the more expensive items, because you need the extra money to pay bills. It gives me a greater appreciation for what my parents do.”