By Steve Sears
Students in the fifth and sixth grades from the Sandyston-Walpack Consolidated School District, in Sussex County, recently won the SuitUp Business Competition for the second consecutive year. With a nod towards learning financial literacy at a young age, they may also be looking forward to future in technological entrepreneurship.
“We’re happy for them, very proud,” said Harold Abraham, principal of the Sandyston-Walpack School, in Layton. “The students took part in that competition, and the winning team developed a kid-friendly financial planning app concept for Morgan Stanley that they called ‘Kid-Ching,’ which is a play on words. And, essentially, it would allow people of all ages an opportunity to kind of, in a neat way, be able to save money.”
Last year, the students’ winning creation and design was an essential oil-infused mask for Nike. This year, their competitors each had incredible ideas, said Kelsey English, managing director of partnerships and operations at SuitUp, a New York-based educational nonprofit, but “the [Sandyston-Walpack] idea was super personal and very on brand with Morgan Stanley. In addition, it appeals to a market of young investors that will be able to put themselves in a healthy financial situation due to using the app.”
About 35 Students Participated
The Sandyston-Walpack School faculty and students connected with their Morgan Stanley mentors and SuitUp staff via Google Meet. And while the ultimate goal was the application of mathematics and English language arts by the students in a classroom setting, innovation, preparation and readiness for the future were other important elements for the students.
“By no means does it replace what they’re learning in the classroom,” said Abraham. “It’s embedded within it. And it also shows the kids that what they’re learning every day in school is applicable to real life. And the kids have learned just so many skills that many other students around the state and country haven’t been exposed to in the financial literacy realm, such as the difference between debit and credit, how to be smart consumers, how to use things like technology to work in your benefit to be a smart shopper, and appropriate ways to develop a budget for yourself so that you’re smart with your finances.
A Financial Planning App for Kids
“Our students went home, and they taught their family members — whether it was younger or older siblings or relatives — how to write checks,” he said proudly. “And then they were introduced to different mentors from Morgan Stanley, and then we had some local entrepreneurs come and visit and share how they were able to get their start. It’s just very interesting, and the kids get a lot out of it by seeing that it doesn’t matter what you look like or what your age is. If you’re unique, if you’re creative and you’re ambitious, you can do anything you put your mind to.”
Another key benefit from the program? Learning how to interact with people other than their teachers, friends and families. “We’d love to continue exposing our kids to businesses, business owners and people in the tech field, so that we can give our students as many potential pathways as we possibly can,” Abraham said. “Because I think the more exposure that we can give them, the better; because ultimately there’s something out there for everyone. We want to make sure that our students are fully prepared for whatever their passion will lead them to.”
A total of 35 students created the app concept, which has the potential to be implemented by Morgan Stanley in the future. For four days, Morgan Stanley mentors worked with the students on marketing, design and strategy, and were encouraged to ask probing questions, thereby helping the students to develop answers regarding their app. At program’s end, the students presented their product to the panel of judges. The students were rated on the core aspects of their pitch based on the criteria of “glow” (something they did well) and “grow” (something they can work on in the future).
It was a winning situation for the future entrepreneurs.
Lauren Reilly, cofounder and executive director of SuitUp, described the importance of this event for the students: “With the pandemic, students are being left behind. It is more important now than ever, that we show students what it’s like to be a CEO and be digitally literate. We’ve been impressed by the resilience and sheer grit the students from the Sandyston-Walpack district have. We’ve watched them build ideas off each other, develop relationships with their mentors and use SuitUp as a true ‘innovation playground’ to create product ideas that can change the world.”