Essentials of Personal Finance Students Visit Wharton’s Philadelphia Campus

by Diana Drake

One of the strengths of the Wharton Global Youth Embedded Pre-baccalaureate Program is that it provides the chance for high school students to take college-credit Wharton School courses directly from their high schools, connecting weekly with Wharton MBA instructors on Zoom, working virtually with University of Pennsylvania teaching assistants, and getting on-the-ground support from their classroom teachers.

The only thing better? When we actually get to welcome some of these high school students in-person to Wharton’s Philadelphia campus.

Such was the case on Monday, December 19, 2022, when some 40 students and four teachers from Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, KIPP D.C. Legacy College Prep, and KIPP D.C. College Prep traveled from New York City and Washington, D.C. to spend the day at Wharton.

‘A Way of Life’

All of these students recently completed Global Youth’s Embedded Pre-bacc Essentials of Personal Finance class, led by Wharton professor David Musto, director of Wharton’s Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance (pictured above with the visiting students) and designed to teach personal finance concepts and financial decision-making to high school students.

“I had butterflies coming here,” admitted Zach W., a junior from KIPP D.C. Legacy Prep who arrived with his classmates by bus at noon for lunch and to begin a day of campus conversation and activities. “I’m literally the first person in my family to think about going to college…and this is the second college visit I’ve ever been on. It’s teaching me a way of life.”

Zach and fellow students gathered in Steinberg Hall-Dietrich Hall classroom 1206 to meet a team of organizers and educators whom they had only seen online for the previous 10 weeks of instruction. This included Dr. Musto, MBA teaching fellows, undergrad teaching assistants, officials from the National Education Equity Lab who had connected students from underserved communities in the U.S. to the Embedded Pre-bacc opportunity, and members of the Wharton Global Youth team.

“We’re really excited to have you all here on campus,” said Eli Lesser, executive director of Wharton Global Youth, which provided support to a total of 18 high schools and 350 students enrolled in the fall Essentials of Personal Finance course. “You are Wharton students too, and this is your community.”

Kenneth Shropshire, an emeritus professor of legal studies and business ethics who recently returned to Wharton as senior advisor to Dean Erika James for the new Wharton Coalition on Equity and Opportunity, encouraged the group to take advantage of their time on campus. “Ask the questions you want to ask and really envision if this is a place you could be for four years,” said Shropshire, who started his higher-ed journey in a dual-enrollment program at UCLA when he was a student at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, Calif. “Having had that college experience at UCLA [was valuable] — not so much the credit that I got, but the idea that I was able to go in there and do the work.”

Kipp D.C. Legacy Prep junior and Embedded Pre-baccalaureate student, Zach W.

Students let their voices be heard, first providing critical feedback on their Embedded Pre-Bacc experience during an informal session with Leslie Cornfeld, CEO of Ed Equity Lab, and Professor Musto, who recorded several videos on finance topics that students watched asynchronously throughout the course. They later asked questions during a Wharton Ambassador presentation by Jacob Canelo-Garcia, a sophomore studying finance and statistics who served as a teaching assistant this year for Essentials of Personal Finance.

While students clearly benefited from their 10 weeks of studying personal-finance concepts and decision-making skills (credit risk and student loans were among the most popular topics), the opportunity to learn on a college level and step inside the college setting took their Wharton dual-enrollment experience to the next level.

Hunting Ben on the Bench

College life was a hot, semester-long topic of discussion among Tyeirra Lynch’s students. Lynch, a Wharton junior studying marketing and entrepreneurship, worked with students from schools in Southwest Miami and KIPP D.C. as an Essentials of Personal Finance TA.

“Students from my D.C. school asked a lot of questions during the course about work-study, how working during school was applicable to your lifestyle, how you fund your leisure life at college and how hard it is to maintain that work-life balance,” recalled Lynch, who assisted with the Essentials of Personal Finance course as a way to give back to a group of underrepresented students from high schools very similar to her own, where she grew up in Norristown, P.A. “They were interested in the finance curriculum, and also wanted to hear stories about college.”

These earlier interactions enriched the chance for Tyeirra and other instructors to witness their students setting foot on Locust Walk for the first time on December 19. “I’m hoping that being able to see them in person and not just on a screen will make a place like Penn more real and more accessible for the students,” added Josh Blatt, a first-year Wharton MBA student who taught weekly personal finance sessions to KIPP D.C. students over Zoom.

Soon after Monday’s classroom meetup, the students dispersed on a scavenger hunt to discover Wharton, uploading smiling selfies with Ben on the Bench and next to an original piece of the New York Stock Exchange in Steinberg-Dietrich Hall, to name a few.

“It just feels really good to be here,” said Caroline E. from the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice.

Wharton Global Youth is gearing up for a new Essentials of Personal Finance spring session with 25 schools across the U.S., including two from Philadelphia. We look forward to welcoming more students and teachers to the Wharton community.