School of Economics (SOE)‡ was founded more than 29 years ago after local community members and teachers identified a need for economic education and financial literacy among elementary school-age children. UMB was eager to help the organization expand to meet the growing need for high-quality, experiential financial education for kids in Kansas City.

Now with two locations, SOE has capacity to provide an interactive and educational, curriculum-based field trip for an estimated 20,000 Kansas City-area students each year. Over the past years, UMB and SOE have worked together to expand the program by adding a location in downtown Kansas City, while working with women- and minority-owned businesses, local artists and community and business leaders to help children learn the basics of personal finance and money management.

The 2023-2024 school year is poised to be the busiest yet for SOE, with all sessions booked to capacity and more kids and community members being involved than ever before. In addition, SOE will be celebrating 30 years of impact in 2024 and is hosting its first fundraising event in May 2024.

Learn more about how SOE and UMB have taken an inclusive and deliberate approach to meeting a community need, the expansions they’ve made recently and what to look forward to next.

Understanding the needs of a community and rising to the occasion

School of Economics at UMB, a 4,000-square-foot space on UMB’s downtown campus, was designed with kids and community in mind. It’s a collaboration between UMB, a more then century-old bank that’s committed to helping people of all ages increase their financial capabilities and SOE, a home-grown nonprofit dedicated to helping the next generation of Kansas Citians become financially savvy.

UMB strategically aligns the bank’s community development programs to address the needs of the communities it serves. By making a long-term commitment, and a significant investment to help SOE expand, UMB is helping address gaps in financial education opportunities.

Engaging minority- and women-owned businesses

When plans began in 2018 for SOE to open a second location on UMB’s downtown campus, there was a concerted effort to work with minority- and women-owned businesses. UMB’s supplier diversity program demonstrates the bank’s commitment to the communities where associates live and work, and the buildout of SOE at UMB provided the opportunity to increase the number of diverse suppliers.

Engaging diverse suppliers was also important because it reflects the students who will visit SOE at UMB. This location is focused on serving urban schools and districts, many of which have a diverse student population representing multiple races and ethnicities.

Learning the basics of personal finance and money management

School of Economics umb kid

The SOE program introduces small business management, supply and demand, customer service and essential money management skills. The real-world experience kids have at the SOE introduces them to career options, helps develop leadership skills, encourages teamwork and lets them be in charge — all while tackling the challenges and enjoying the rewards of running a business.

UMB believes it is critical for children to learn the basics of personal finance and money management. By bringing its programming to UMB’s downtown location, SOE can double its impact and provide financial education to even more Kansas City students.

Creating excitement and learning through local art

When students first arrive at SOE’s downtown campus, they are greeted with vibrant visuals that energize their day. The big, bold exterior mural was designed by two local artists, JT Daniels‡ and Phil Shafer‡ and is a statement piece full of symbolism.

Whether it’s their first visit or they’ve been to SOE at UMB several times, students and teachers continue to explore and discover elements of the artwork. The geometric and graphic backdrop includes a yellow and orange “KC” tucked into the cityscape and represents a gold standard of excellence. Inspirational phrases like “achieve and succeed” and “show respect” cover the building windows and seamlessly integrate into the mural.

Once inside, the fun and art continue. Thanks to the imagination and talent of Antonio “Toni Picasso” Burton‡, visitors are engaged and entertained by the story of a working emoji as they make their way to the School of Economics at UMB.

Collaborating to create a familiar and creative space for learning

The Kansas City region is made up of various neighborhoods, some with bright facades and architectural details and others with towering buildings and shining lights. SOE’s downtown location brings to life the familiar sights from the region’s various areas and neighborhoods. To make this vision a reality, UMB worked with the talented students at the Kansas City Art Institute’s (KCAI) MicroAgency‡. The KCAI students blew everyone away with their artwork and created a stimulating space for learning.

UMB and SOE were dedicated to creating a space that students, parents, teachers and volunteers would enjoy. No matter which part of the region people live in, they’re sure to see familiar landmarks and lifelike storefronts that get them excited for a day of finance made fun!

What’s new and what’s next

SOE has worked closely with transportation providers to manage the shortage of bus drivers and ensure that all groups can safely arrive to their sessions in a timely manner. The sites are also offering more flexibility with the duration of sessions – instead of a half school day, some sessions can be 3 or 3.5 hours. SOE has also teamed up with high school students interested in volunteering, which is exciting for the kids and also provides the high school students with required volunteer hours and potentially college scholarships that SOE helps support. In addition, SOE is partnering with other community organizations and agencies such as the Boys & Girls Club and Jackson County Parks and Recreation to bring in groups from their facilities to SOE for special fieldtrips.

UMB is committed to continuing to increase financial capability throughout our community through its ongoing work with SOE. Having a positive impact in the community while supporting the vital role SOE is playing in empowering youth through financial education is a testament to UMB’s community commitment.

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