Senior teaches financial literacy to underprivileged children

September 9, 2019 — by Christine Zhang

Fourth graders bustled around the room on their last day of summer school as senior Prisha Samdarshi watched them. The students excitedly visited their peers’ mini-businesses, trading all the money they had earned throughout their financial literacy course in exchange for prizes to take home. 

Samdarshi recently earned the Girl Scout Gold Award for her partnership with Sacred Heart Community Service, a nonprofit organization that offers services to underprivileged families around the Bay Area. From June 24 to July 24, she taught financial literacy to underserved children at Sacred Heart School.

Samdarshi began her Gold Award project in 2017, when she started to fill out reports and submit the proposal and timeline for her idea. She said the approval process took about three months. 

In 2018, Samdarshi faced the bulk of her project’s planning alongside the academic stress of her junior year. Because of school commitments, she was unable to focus as much on Girl Scouts as she would have liked to. 

“It was really hard to manage school and all of this work,” Samdarshi said. “At the beginning of junior year from June to December, I didn’t do a lot on the project, so from January to June, I had to do so much because I procrastinated on my timeline.” 

Throughout her junior year, Samdarshi researched financial literacy and created a curriculum for her class. She wrote and illustrated a book titled “Money Managers” for use in the course, and lastly, she drew up a lesson plan for the summer. 

To keep the fourth graders immersed, Samdarshi modeled the class into a simulation. The students earned money for following the rules and lost money for misbehavior; created mini-businesses and paid for others’ products with debit and credit cards; used bank accounts and checks; and paid taxes, among other activities. 

“The enrichment class is supposed to be fun,” Samdarshi said. “I know financial literacy doesn’t seem like a really interesting topic for kids, so I had to form activities that would engage them.”

She was motivated to teach financial literacy to these children because her own interest in economics was fueled by the Junior Achievement program at Argonaut Elementary School. 

Junior Achievement is a global nonprofit organization that educates youth about entrepreneurship. In local elementary schools such as Argonaut and Foothill, parent volunteers partner with the program to give students their first taste of finance. Samdarshi wanted to provide the same opportunity to children who did not enjoy the same privileges that Saratoga students did.

“Financial literacy is a really important topic that is not taught in school, and I wanted to give the kids the same experience I had through Junior Achievement,” she said. “I      wanted to be able to at least introduce money management to them at a young age.”

Looking back, Samdarshi said her leadership and communication skills grew significantly as a result of her project. 

“It was a lot of leadership on my part, which is definitely different from what I’ve encountered before,” Samdarshi said. “I was treated like an adult, and I took on the responsibility of preparing and organizing things. There was really no adult helping me with anything unless I approached them first.” 

Samdarshi said that she does not have any concrete plans to expand on her work in the near future. She noted that the Gold Award is structured so that the Girl Scouts’ community service projects can move forward by themselves. 

She has given all her resources, including her book and lesson plan, to Sacred Heart, in the hope that new teachers in following summers will be able to make use of her materials to teach financial literacy in the future. 

“Financial literacy gets very important when you’re older, and it’s hard if you don’t have any background knowledge,” Samdarshi said. “I don’t expect the kids to remember everything, but at least they’ll have a starting point as to how to manage their money.”

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