Pitching Progress: Students propose financial literacy classes for new mothers


Naomi Yaeger, Staff Writer

For the first time last Thursday, the New Community Project English class (NewComm) took a trip to Wall Street, where they presented a proposal to a group of business executives, Ajani Green-Watson (12) said. The students proposed a program to teach financial literacy classes to expecting mothers, she said.

Overall, the meeting was very successful, James Thomas (12) said. “[The executives] were gracious enough to give us a lot of impactful feedback,” he said. “They found our project very viable and expressed interest in working with us.”

One of the executives was a new mother herself, so she identified with the proposal, Julian Silverman (12) said. “She had feedback on what it was like to be a mother, and laid out potential conflicts that she has with managing her work life and her home life,” he said.

NewComm focuses on a different theme every year, this year’s theme being economic inequalities, English teacher and grade dean Chidi Asoluka said. The NewComm class developed their proposal through the course of the year after reading books, watching movies, and listening to songs, he said. Students used these stories as case studies for real challenges presented in the world and learned from the solutions presented in those stories when creating their proposal, Asoluka said. “I have always thought stories are a wonderful piece of data that can be analyzed and leveraged for something else, instead of just writing an essay.”

The proposal was inspired by the life of Ruth Younger, a character in the play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorriane Hansberry, Rachel Fearon (12) said. In the play, Ruth is too preoccupied with her kids to focus on getting a much needed house for her family, she said.

Initially, the class had partnered with the non-profit Global Thinking Foundation (GLT), but the day before their presentation, the organization ceased all operations in the United States, Asoluka said. Instead of presenting their proposal to GLT as originally planned, the class presented to a panel a few doors down and broadened their proposal so it wouldn’t depend on a particular organization, Asoluka said. “In true entrepreneurship form, we are building an airplane while flying it.”

The class is now working to turn their proposal into a pitch they can show to potential investors, Green-Watson said. This means finalizing the details of the program, such as where the class would take place and what lessons mothers would learn, Green-Watson said. If their pitch is accepted, the students would continue to run the program as interns, she said. “We still have full control of what the program does, what we want to change, and where we want to put it.”

To work towards this goal, the class is in the process of talking with mothers in the Bronx to see what they need, Silverman said. “We’re further crafting the project while also working to improve it in whatever way possible.”

One of the best parts of the trip was watching his students learn, Asoluka said. “I fundamentally believe that education equates to freedom,” he said. “It transcended what is typically the status quo of school, which can often feel transactional. The field trip was a counter-cultural moment, and I will never forget that.”

Presenting the pitch after spending months preparing was rewarding, Fearon said. “It was one thing to practice with everyone during class, but being able to present to people and to see their live reactions was really cool because we have worked on this for forever.”

The trip was a memorable moment that will stick with the class, Thomas said. “After 13 years at Horace Mann, this is the most explorative and fun experience I’ve had,” he said. “Mr. Asoluka acts as a father figure to the seven of us, he wants this project to succeed and it shows.”