Students pioneer Youth Econ Initiative

April 3, 2020 — by Jonathan Li and Howard Tang

When senior George Bian first proposed the Youth Economics Initiative (YEI), it had just been an idea that he had tossed out. A few months later in the beginning of this year, Economics Club presidents junior Henry Weng and senior George Bian, along with sophomore Ian Chen, president of Lynbrook High’s Economics Club, created the YEI, an initiative that is beginning to spread across the nation to various locations such as Illinois and Massachusetts.

The Economics Club already had a significant presence on campus prior to the founding of the YEI. Boasting about 25 active members, it was founded two years earlier in 2018. Somewhat similar to the YEI, the Economics Club also wanted to provide a community for students interested in economics. 

The initiative’s goals include speeding up the process of starting new economics clubs at other schools, providing prospective economists with networking opportunities and hosting the first annual EconBowl this spring, a Quiz Bowl-type competition that gives high schoolers the chance to apply real-world economics knowledge in a fast-paced contest. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EconBowl will now be held online.

Its meetings try to expose students to real-world applications of economics through modeling, discussion and going over recent advancements in the field. They also explore the interdisciplinary aspects of economics. For example, in one meeting, the club gathered data from SHS students and used calculus, statistics and economics principles to determine the effects of the price increase in the cafeteria food and what the profit maximizing price was for pizza, which they discovered to be $2.50 per slice. 

As of now, in addition to the founding chapters at Saratoga and Lynbrook, there are three different chapters of this initiative in California, one in Illinois and one in Massachusetts. 

Weng said that YEI developed and shared a unique curriculum, in the form of study guides, presentations, cheat sheets and mentorship, which chapters can use in their meetings.

Bian became inspired by fellow senior Ashvin Maheshwar, who created No App-Maker Left Behind, a program in which he would visit and teach kids at other schools about app-making, even helping them submit their apps to various competitions like MIT App Inventor. Bian wanted to start a program that would provide schools and students across the U.S. an easy way to start economics clubs of their own. 

The initiative began to gain traction when Bian suggested the idea to Weng. At the time, they were co-presidents of the Economics Club.
“I thought Ashvin’s program was pretty cool, so I suggested a similar program to Henry,” Bian said, “and he really pushed it forward and created YEI.”

Weng and Bian partnered with Chen to begin the initiative when they noticed him starting his own club at Lynbrook. They posted messages and call-outs to forums related to economics on various social media sites, such as Reddit and Twitter, so that other schools and officers would be able to contact them quickly. They have been active for a little over a year now.

Sophomore Albert Ye is the curriculum designer of the YEI, and has been a contributor to its events and competitions as a member of the Varsity B team.

“I think the club is well organized and provides a good learning environment for those aspiring to do econ,” Ye said. “You can join at any time.”

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