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Babson’s life lessons in financial literacy

Students counsel Framingham teens

Keefe Technical School student Erin Dowdy, 15, (left) and Framingham High School student Daniella Araujo, 14, attend a “Moneythink” class held at the Framingham Housing Authority community center
Kayana Szymczak for the Boston Globe
Keefe Technical School student Erin Dowdy, 15, (left) and Framingham High School student Daniella Araujo, 14, attend a “Moneythink” class held at the Framingham Housing Authority community center

Framingham High School student Daniella Araujo, 14, has come to view her teenage dreams in terms of dollars and cents.

Kayana Szymczak for the Boston Globe
Babson College mentor Michael Kliska (right) explains a lesson to Keefe Technical School student Bailey Brady (left) and MassBay Community College student Philippe Raphael.

“You think you’ll turn 16 and get a car, but it’s really expensive,” she said. “For a year to have a car, it’s $10,000 on average. The insurance is even more expensive when you’re young.”

Learning the true cost of owning car — the suburban teen’s path to freedom — was “kind of scary,” said Araujo. But it was not as shocking as discovering that compounding interest could have helped her put aside even more money to purchase a vehicle when she finally gets her license.

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“Oh my gosh,” she said. “Look at the money I could have saved by not spending money on stupid things, like movies I didn’t like.”

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Araujo owes much of her new shrewd perspective to a handful of Babson College students who have been teaching financial literacy courses for low-income youth in Framingham since September.

Meeting weekly with about eight high school students in the Framingham Housing Authority’s community center, the Babson undergraduates discuss making and managing money, including lessons on sitting for job interviews, using credit cards responsibly, and other personal finance skills.

Kayana Szymczak for the Boston Globe
Babson sophomore Shatiek Gatlin leads a Money Think class in a Framingham Housing Authority meeting room.

“Budgeting and saving go hand in hand,” said Shatiek Gatlin, 19, a Babson sophomore from Queens, N.Y., who cofounded the group, during a session last month. “Spend less than what you make. If you make $200 in income in a month, you have no business spending $400.”

Babson sophomore Michael Kliska, 19, another cofounder, said he and Gatlin established the group because they wanted to experience life beyond the walls of their school’s leafy grounds in Wellesley.

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“When you are on a college campus, you are kind of isolated,” said Kliska, a Virginia native. “To get into a community that you are not necessarily familiar with — none of us are from the area — it gives you a better understanding of your surroundings and makes you appreciate where you are a little bit more.”

Kliska added that the courses have taught him plenty about personal finances. He also was surprised at the average yearly cost of owning a car, he said.

The courses also gave him hands-on experience in starting up a venture, a topic he studies at Babson. “I really believe in impacting lives while making a profit is the way to go for entrepreneurship,” he said.

Managing the lessons and the teens has also been eye-opening, Kliska said.

The high school students are given $10 at the conclusion of each session. But more than half of those who showed up for the group’s first meeting no longer attend. That tells him that the current students are there for more than the money.

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Kliska also had to adapt his business model, moving the courses from Saturday afternoon, when few if any teenagers would attend, to the middle of the week, when the most showed up.

‘Oh my gosh. Look at the money I could have saved by not spending money on stupid things, like movies I didn’t like.’

The courses are designed by MoneyThink, a Chicago-based nonprofit education organization that sponsors chapters at 26 universities throughout the country; Babson’s is the only chapter in Massachusetts.

Kliska hopes the Framingham sessions offered by his school’s group might inspire other Greater Boston colleges to open chapters, too. “This is an opportunity to set the tone for the area,” he said.

Distinguished last year as a Champion of Change, a White House recognition for educators, MoneyThink is trying to help students from low-income families learn how to avoid the financial mistakes that often magnify other problems they are trying to overcome, said Ted Gonder, a University of Chicago graduate who founded the group in 2009.

“The age group of folks who are 16 to 18 are about to enter the densest concentration of life-changing financial decisions they’ll ever have to face: taking out huge loans or earning big scholarships to go to college, getting their first job, handling their first paycheck, dealing with insurance,” he said.

The course works in part because it is voluntary, Gonder added.

“The ideal student for us is a student who has faced significant adversity growing up but has overcome it to the extent they are still in school in 11th and 12th grade. That is a selection mechanism,” he said. “They’ve demonstrated persistence, resilience, grit.”

Noel Estevez, 15, knows about persistence. He has lined up a job at Fun and Games, an arcade on Route 9, and arranged to buy a 1995 Honda Civic for $1,500.

The Keefe Technical School student believes he can save up the money in less than a year to be ready once he is old enough to drive.

“I’m probably going to save most of my check,” said Estevez.

John Dyer can be reached at johnjdyerjr@gmail.com.