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Encouraging Student Leadership: SEL in Action

7 June 2017, Comments: Comments Off on Encouraging Student Leadership: SEL in Action

Across the nation, children are being encouraged to read by their barbers.

Barbershops in Ypsilanti, Michigan; Houston, Texas; Dubuque, Iowa; and Harlem, New York are providing books – many donated by community members – for young boys to read aloud to their barbers while getting their new styles. Even better: at some of these barbershops, families get a discount for participation in the program.

When educational initiatives and community efforts intersect this seamlessly, everyone benefits. When that intersection begins to draw children into discussions of finance – as with the barbershops providing discounts – there are even greater positive effects.

Today, 45 states include lessons on personal finance in K-12 standards, and 37 require implementation of those standards. These counts are up from 21 and 14, respectively, in 1998. Yet the number of states requiring high school students to take a specific course in personal finance has remained stable at 17 since 2014, and only 16 states require testing of economic concepts, down from 25 in 1998. In a 2012 study of 30,000 teenagers from 18 countries, more than 1 in 6 US students failed to achieve baseline proficiency in financial literacy.

Urban Tech believes that through a deeper understanding of personal goals as well as the broader needs of a group, today’s youth will be infinitely better equipped to plan for their future and to understand how to invest in their community in order to invest in themselves. Our modules on educational planning, financial literacy, and community building bring these ideas together to help students recognize the value of civic engagement.

YLA’s Educational Planning module focuses primarily on developing effective study habits; recognizing the relationship between education, career, and lifestyle; and seeking positive relationships with people who support one’s educational goals. These goals help students to focus on both daily academic tasks and the long-term benefits of education, and to incorporate education into their personal value set.

The Financial Literacy module shows students how education can impact their financial future, and how best to plan for that future. Students are taught to distinguish wants from needs, set a budget, and understand credit and debt. Specific tutorials help students understand how advertising is actively directed toward changing their financial habits, and how to ignore those tactics in favor of maintaining their own financial values. Finally, students are introduced to the basics of becoming entrepreneurs and investing financially in their communities.

Expanding on the lessons and values of these modules, Community Building encourages students to become involved in their community whenever possible, and to build their own vision to improve their environment. Beyond providing instruction on the importance of contributing to a strong, supportive community, this empowers students to believe in themselves and the power their values can hold.

In alignment with YLA’s overall goals, each of these modules helps students gain a greater understanding of themselves, their peers, and the world around them. For more information, please visit