December 13, 2011

Nancy Terrill’s article on the Ohio TMA’s Financial Literacy Program at Shaw High School is featured in the December TMA Newsletter

Ohio TMA Begins Financial Literacy Pilot Program at
Shaw High School in East Cleveland
By Nancy Terrill, Inglewood Associates LLC

Many of you are familiar with the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s 3Rs program, which provides outreach to Cleveland and East Cleveland high school students. Volunteers from the legal community teach rights, responsibilities and realities of the law. The program started in 2006 and has grown to more than 500 volunteers servicing more than 3,000 students in 18 high schools.

This past summer, a group of Ohio TMA members began to explore how TMA could engage with this same community. Chris Meyer of Squire Sanders, a past president of Ohio TMA and an active member of the 3R program, suggested a further need to teach financial literacy to these inner-city students. Chris had access to learning materials from other groups across the country, and he had contacts at the schools. A group of us enthusiastically volunteered to participate in a pilot program at Shaw High School this school year in the hopes that it could grow into a larger program in future years.

Our program started in September of this year. Each month, a group of five TMA members have gathered in Ms. Lori Eiler’s high school law class at Shaw High School. There, we have had the opportunity to interface with about 30 students, all juniors and seniors who aspire to attend college in the future. The topics we covered so far included:

  • How to apply for a job and what to expect when you begin working
  • How to prepare a personal budget
  • How to open a bank account
  • What banking services are available and what to avoid
  • Credit cards – the benefits and pitfalls of credit

The first class included introductions, where each of the TMA volunteers introduced themselves to the class and told the students a little bit about their career, before adding a comment about what they were like as high school juniors. There were many snickers as some of us disclosed that we were so old that there were no interscholastic athletic teams for girls back in the day! Then the students shared a bit about themselves, including their personal goals. The students were all dressed appropriately, in accordance with the school’s strict dress code. Several students had excellent posture and declared proudly that they were top academic performers. Others are star athletes at
the school, and intend to get scholarships from top schools due to their athletic skills. Still others identified the goal of attaining the magic SAT score that would qualify them for academic scholarships. Some, of course, were shy, but even they were curious about the professionals attending their classroom.

Each class involves a 15-minute discussion on the topic at hand. Then the class is broken down into tables of four or five students, and each professional presents the remaining materials to the smaller group. The materials are self-explanatory and include worksheets to drive home the key points. The kids learn, for example, that credit cards are a wonderful tool for building a credit history, but that they are very expensive if you do not pay the bills in full and on time. The class ended with a jeopardy game, where the tables of students compete to answer questions correctly for points (and some of us get blamed for teaching to the test!)

According to the 2010 census, East Cleveland’s population of 17,843 people declined 34.4% from 2000, and 93.2% of the city’s population is of African American descent. In 2010, 33.8% of the city housing was vacant and 37.1% of the population is living in poverty, while the per capita income was $14,825, as compared to the average Ohio per capita income of $24,830. In spite of the urban decay that surrounds these students, Shaw High School, represented by a clearly devoted teacher in Ms. Eiler, is dedicated to getting these kids the tools and information they need to succeed in life.

I have been proud to be part of this pilot program, as have the other volunteers:

  • Chris Meyer, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP
  • Jim Lawniczak, Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP
  • Kelly Burgan, Baker Hostetler LLP
  • Patty Missal, Aurora Management Partners
  • Sally Barton, KeyBank NA
  • John Lane, Inglewood Associates LLC
  • Mark Seryak, First Merit Bank
  • Joe Esmont, Baker Hostetler LLP

Ohio TMA is planning to expand this program to additional inner city schools to teach these important lessons to the best and the brightest students. But we need your help. If you want to be a part of the solution in a fun and rewarding way, we ask you to volunteer your time to this extremely worthwhile program. Contact Nancy Terrill at or 440 477 4781 for more information about how you can participate in future programs.

Reprinted with permission from the Ohio Chapter of the Turnaround Management Association.