Art program seeks to turn creativity into financial literacy learning opportunity
ALBANY, NY (NEWS10) – James Mitchell has been using art to reach local children in the minority community for years. According to him, the seed of a whole new approach to art was planted after some students came to see him after class.
“A lot of kids asked or the question I was asked was, ‘Hey Mr. Mitchell, can I recreate some of these activities in my own house and sell my soaps or sell my candles?’ Obviously, it let me know that these kids had an entrepreneurial spirit,” Mitchell explained to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
Mitchell is the CEO and founder of Young Futures, alongside his 14-year-old daughter. He said they both tried to find fun and educational opportunities together, and that teaching financial literacy spoke to him deeply after remembering his own youth living in a tough neighborhood.
“I was raised in the Bronx, and I know I can only speak from my experience, the idea of making money illegally was introduced to me before I was 14,” he said. “They see the same thing, so we just want to give them a new perspective on how you can make money, new avenues that they can do right now.”
Mitchell said art helps children better retain difficult financial concepts. He said he first tried the idea of merging financial literacy and creativity in November with a series of candle making, painting, cake decorating and other activities while learning concepts like equity and assets.
“There was a little girl who came to the program with her older brother, she was only five years old, and I asked her two weeks later, ‘What was your favorite art activity?’ She was so excited and talked about the candle making class, so I asked her, “What was the financial principle we talked about during this class?” “She was able to regurgitate the lesson and what fairness was, the definition of the word,” Mitchell explained.
“Fairness is a concept that you and I are probably still trying to understand. Even if we understand it, how would we ever explain it to a ninth grader? So our classes are not taught by someone who doesn’t has no experience in this. Equity class is taught by a real estate agent. Banking and budgeting class, we are looking for Key Bank to enter,” he said.
“Equity is not necessarily a fun subject,” laughs Virginia Rawlins. She is an experienced real estate agent and the Building Blocks Together CEO. She is one of the specialist experts who teach for the Young Futures program. “I think pairing any lesson with art and giving the kids a creative outlet, for example, in this class, where it was about making candles. While they’re putting things in the candle, we can talk about starting with something and putting things in there like cash, equity, whatever, and creating that value like they would with a House.
Mitchell said he’s taken the pandemic downtime to perfect his curriculum, and the Young Futures Financial Arts Literacy Program is set to kick off its next five weeks. series in March at the Capital Region African American Cultural Center.
Rawlins said she was thrilled to be teaching again and combining her two passions for children and helping others understand real estate. “There’s a lot of technical mortgage language, very technical real estate jargon that even adults don’t understand. So I wonder if I wasn’t in this 24/7, would I understand it? Most of the time the answer is no. There’s a lot of acronyms and things like that, so you really have to rework that and sum it up,” she explained. “I think linking it to things that they might be more familiar with. Is LeBron James an asset to his team, right? Name the ways he is an asset to his team. And then the liabilities, your grades and things like that. Give the kids some sort of outlet, almost like a distraction if you will, but while they’re learning lessons.
Registration for the Young Futures Financial Arts Literacy Program will continue through Friday. The free class for ages 7 to 15 also allows parents to choose which day of the week their children can attend: Wednesdays, Thursdays or Fridays.
Mitchell said he hopes to give children skills they may not have in school, but desperately need to succeed in the future. “It’s not just that I want a thing, but do I appreciate this thing enough to now save money, have a goal – goal setting is a big part of what we do – and also , prepare them for the future,” he said. .