By Steve Sears
Aditya Desai, a Livingston High School junior, was recently awarded a $5,000 grant for forming a financial literacy workshop which has since become a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization.
His 2018 founding of Economics Education Initiative (EEI) came about after a surprising discovery he made in the slums of Queens in New York City during a public health research internship he was pursuing two years ago. “Our project focused on addressing health disparities in the Hispanic populace, and as a result, I was administering a survey to gauge the health decision making abilities of the impoverished residents there,” he recalls. The survey, which consisted of two simple questions, ‘How much would you spend on a needed medication?’ and ‘How much would you spend on your favorite pair of new shoes?’, unveiled shocking results. “Over 75% of all respondents, 98% of whom were African American, were unwilling to pay a higher price for an essential prescription than a new pair of (Air) Jordans, per say. That’s when it hit me: these individuals have no background of financial literacy or budgeting. Armed with this newfound insight, I aspired to approach the issue with my own organization committed to mitigating financial illiteracy, and the rest is history.”
Desai is the recipient of a special grant, part of the money going to fund a startup publication. “Over the past year, EEI has been fortunate to be named a winner of the United Way Worldwide Rep My City Challenge and receive a $5,000 grant from the organization to promote our financial literacy curriculum. We’ve also received backing from Google, T-Mobile, and other smaller financial institutions in New Jersey. The plan with the $5,000 grant, specifically, is to create BizStarter Magazine, a teen entrepreneur’s bible that will feature tips, insights, and journeys from some of the top business leaders across the United States.” The launch of the magazine, currently set for August 2020, goes hand-in-hand with an entrepreneurial boot-camp Desai is hosting this summer in Newark and Montclair. “Not only will the magazine be distributed at our camp, but also a series of national entrepreneurship incubators including Next Gen, Startup Island, and the Spark Tank at Dwight School (in New York City).”
Since Desai feels financial literacy in itself can be a mundane topic to address and embrace, he tooled EEI workshops to be a fun and interesting activity for high school students. EEI specifically does this by breaking down their two-hour financial literacy workshops into a preliminary simulation and subsequent concept breakdown. Desai explains. “Our simulations range from a raisin game that gives each team of students 10 raisins as mock money for a budget to a global trade simulation that uses our novel playing cards to model economic value across the international sphere. Of course, the second half of our workshop focuses on linking back the momentous activity that students were indulged in into the tangible fiscal concepts (scarcity, imports/exports, asset allocation) that they will take away from our workshops and mobilize in their own lives.”
Desai believes that financial literacy is a critical skill that all high schoolers need to be endowed with, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds. “However,” he attests, “I’ve seen a lack of financial literacy routinely perpetuates the cyclical nature of poverty, and this is what particularly motivates me to cater the knowledge to underprivileged groups.”
Desai is tremendously proud of the EEI team, and how far they’ve come in regard to promoting financial literacy in underserved regions. “Over this summer,” he says, “we also plan on announcing our partnership with a financial literacy mobile application, sponsored by TD Ameritrade that will be distributed to all of our workshop participants.”
Visit www.eeinj.org for more information.