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Ward students teach valuable lessons to Keeler clients


by Kara Hansen
Special to The Leaven

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — One might be forgiven for thinking the phrase “Bishop Ward game changer” has something to do with the school’s excellent sports programs.

Sure, some of the student-athletes fit that description. But this time it was a group of big-hearted and financially savvy Ward students that turned the game around for some disadvantaged women in need of some financial literacy.

These game changers are part of the Kansas City, Kan., high school’s Academy of Finance. As members of the academy, the students can take advantage of a variety of hands-on opportunities to learn about business — and one, in particular, to teach others what they have learned.

The Ward students put their learning to good use this spring by assisting with a financial literacy class offered by the Keeler Women’s Center.

“Financial literacy programs offered in English in the past have always been well-received,” said Sister Carol Ann Petersen, director of the Keeler Women’s Center.

“It’s an important thing for women, for their well-being and that of their families,” she continued. “There is always a great interest in those classes.”

For women who speak another language, however, options have been limited in terms of class offerings.

“We have always struggled to provide that same programming in Spanish,” said Sister Carol Ann.

Enter the Bishop Ward High School students. Not only did they speak the language of money. They could also speak Spanish!

“We had talked about doing a partnership, and both parties were interested in working together,” said Sister Carol Ann. “We were anxious to have the program here.”

The Ward students taught Money Smarts classes weekly at the Keeler Center from January through March. The classes were entirely student-taught. To make the classes even more accessible for participants, while some students taught, others provided child care.

“Through an educational partnership with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Keeler Women’s Center, [these] Bishop Ward students implemented an innovative educational program for Spanish-speaking, financially illiterate and unbanked adults in the urban core of Wyandotte County using the Money Smarts curriculum,” said Cindy Heiman, Academy of Finance director at Bishop Ward.

“The students had to take the information they learned in their AOF classes in English, relearn it in Spanish, and then teach it,” she continued.

Twelve women attended the class; seven women attended every class and received a certificate of completion.

“The women were a range of ages and most were mothers,” said Sister Carol Ann. “Many of the women have never had a checking account and never been taught how to save. From attending the class, they have gained a working understanding about money and a knowledge about the importance of saving and having good credit.”

Sister Carol Ann said the course could empower the women to better provide for their families and, ideally, teach their own children about finances. All of this was thanks to the Ward game changers who taught each week.

“They are a wonderful group of young people with take-charge attitudes,” said Sister Carol Ann. “They were nice, respectful, and affirming of the women in the group, as well as very well-prepared for each class.”

Heiman said teaching the course was just as valuable an experience for the students involved.

“Second-person teaching is one of the most powerful learning tools. So, by mastering the material to be able to teach it to the women at the Keeler Women’s Center, the students really own the knowledge,” said Heiman.

“Second, it reaffirms their culture and the beauty of being bilingual,” she added. “Last, but not least, it allows the students to give back in a significant way to their community, which is one of our primary missions as a Catholic high school.”

Heiman said students also gained a greater appreciation of what their teachers go through in preparing and presenting lessons. And they have experienced a unique opportunity to have real-world business experience and community service rolled into one.

“It’s a big time commitment, and I am really proud of them,” said Heiman.

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The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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