SECURING THEIR FUTURE — Carlene Archie teaches the financial literacy class at Ignite Achievement Academy at Elder Diggs 42, an IPS innovation school. The class is offered to students in Grades K–6. Archie also teaches students about a variety of jobs and roles in corporate America and helps them learn how to become entrepreneurs through startup businesses.



Ignite Achievement Academy @ Elder Diggs 42 approaches things differently than most schools. Its focus on financial literacy is just one example.

The school’s approach to finance moves beyond the traditional early education focus on using money largely as a way to teach kids math. Every student in the school, from kindergarten to sixth grade, takes a semester of financial literacy each year.

The curriculum covers basic economic concepts like income, checking and savings accounts, banks, debit cards, credit cards, stocks and entrepreneurship.

Each grade level is taught aspects of finance appropriate to their age group. In kindergarten, students learn about banks, as well as the concept of money and how to count it. As students move through grade levels, ideas like bank registers, deposit tickets and investments are added.

By establishing the importance of managing spending habits early, Ignite helps its students learn to make more responsible, educated spending and savings decisions, empowering them to take control of their finances from an early age.

The lessons are resonating with students, according to Carlene Archie. The financial literacy teacher at Ignite has overheard students discussing everything from how they have started saving birthday money to taking an interest in financial issues on television.

“Our students are much more conscious of money,” said Archie. “They don’t spend their money or discuss it the same way. They tell me, ‘Mrs. Archie, but I didn’t spend it all.’ They discuss how they’re saving up to buy something.”

How does Archie keep students engaged in a subject that many adults find confusing?

“It has to be interactive as much as possible to keep them engaged,” she said. “But it’s a different type of course for them, and that piques their interest. Their perspective of money is changing.”

Ava E., a third grade student at Ignite, said she likes the financial literacy classes. “It helps me learn about budgets, money, debit cards, taxes, stock, real estate, life … and (to) talk like you got sense.”

Ignite — an IPS innovation school that opened in 2017 in the former Elder W. Diggs School 42 building — is an accelerated K-6 school. It uses a “holistic” curriculum built on project-based learning and socio-emotional and neuroscientific research.

So, while it is still aligned with common core and Indiana academic standards, Ignite does things a little differently. Daily meditation is part of the school day and all students take courses in martial arts and dance as part of the curriculum.

“We go from the basis (that) all children are geniuses,” said Archie. “It just has to be brought out of them by challenging them.”

Financial literacy is underserved in most schools, according to Archie, who believes students don’t get enough exposure in classrooms regarding how to make, save and spend money. By adding financial literacy to the curriculum, she hopes students will grow into young adults who don’t repeat the mistakes of those who came before them.

Principal Shy-Quon Ely said the program will have a long-lasting effect on the community, and will shape the lives of those who are in it.

“Our neighborhood is within — and many of our students come from — one of the most fragile and impoverished communities in the city,” said Ely. “Our program is socially responsible, community responsive, and is one of the pillars within the Ignite at Diggs community. Our financial literacy and entrepreneurship programs will impact our community for years to come.”

Archie contends that financial literacy should be an educational focus for all schools, not just Ignite.

“A lack of knowledge can cause a lot of financial problems,” said Archie. “We should make sure children understand how money works at an early age. It’s my goal to make this part of every school curriculum.”