John McLaren, respected investment banker and a member of Artists For Humanity’s Board of Advisors, is teaching lessons in financial literacy to AFH’s paid summer apprentices.
Over the past couple of weeks, John has held meet-and-greet sessions at the Epicenter with AFH's youth artists. He has reached out to the Sovereign Bank, TD Banknorth, and the Bank of America, inviting representatives to speak with the students about their bank services. Many teens have already taken advantage of this opportunity and opened up their first checking accounts. Throughout the summer and continuing into the fall, John will be coming into the EpiCenter every other week or so to talk about the banking process and to answer questions about establishing savings. John’s idea is to bring someone in from the outside— someone who is not around AFH youth every day— to serve as an "expert" on the banking system and processes.
At this stage, John is simply planting seeds of interest in banking and money management. John will continue to raise questions to get the young artists engaged: What is a paycheck? How do you manage a budget? What will you do with your cash? How does it all work? The hope is that this exposure to the banking world will arm AFH teens with the financial literacy and support systems to better prepare them for the professional working world.
John started out in banking, transitioned into the insurance industry, and eventually became interested in alternative investment in areas other than stocks, bonds, and real estate. John was introduced to Executive/Artistic Director Susan Rodgerson and the youth programs at AFH this past spring, joined the Board of Advisors and so began this whirlwind partnership of art and economics.
Coming from the perspective of a professional employer and investor, John loved AFH's concept of putting high school students to work in the studios. Not only are AFH youth granted the rights and privileges of professional artists, but they are also held accountable for the responsibilities of working in the real world. Students learn important lessons in timeliness, work ethic, negotiation, and team collaboration in the work environment. In return, the teens are respected as independent and mature young adults in the work force— and they are given weekly paychecks to prove it! An AFH youth artist can potentially earn $1400 in wages this summer, plus commissions on the sales of their individual artworks.
For many of the youth, these are among some of the first paychecks the teens will ever receive. This is certainly very exciting, but could also be a daunting task for those who are financially inexperienced. AFH teens will have to decide what to do with these checks— to save or to spend? John hopes to advise the young artists and guide them toward making financially sound and economically pragmatic choices.
Thank you, John, for sharing your expertise with all of us at AFH!
[Submitted by Angelina Zhou, AFH Summer Intern]