URBANA — Urbana Middle School students gathered in their gymnasium Friday to listen to a young CEO talk about the importance of financial literacy.
It typically might be difficult to keep the attention of such an audience, but in this case he has a distinct advantage: He is only 13 years old.
Caden Harris, a Georgia entrepreneur who started his own company at age 7, was brought to the school by way of two teachers who won funding from the Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation’s Vincent O. Greene Grant.
Instructing an audience of approximately 900 students over the course of three sessions, Harris talked about how to earn, save, budget and invest money, as well as the overall value of attaining financial independence.
“I learned that you can start a business when you’re young,” seventh-grader Abdullah Inayat said after the presentation.
“He’s inspiring people to do things at a young age or even older,” said Blessing Mfuluma, another seventh-grader.
Harris said he became interested in financial literacy after his dad, who works in business-development consulting, started bringing him along to business meetings.
“I would always hear people talking about financial literacy, but at that point I hadn’t understood what financial literacy was,” Harris said. “So I took it upon myself to learn about it and teach it to kids in a way that they can understand.”
The 13-year-old has gone on to create and sell books, flashcards, T-shirts and webinars. He recently graduated from high school and was featured on Hulu’s Big RV Remix after he raised $50,000 to retrofit a school bus into a mobile classroom.
Alyssa Ginzburg said she and Letitia Douglas, both sixth-grade teachers at UMS, applied for the Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation grant to bring Harris to their middle school after Douglas saw his “Financial Learning Bus” on the television show.
Kelly Hill, executive director of the school foundation, said the $4,000 in grant funding awarded on Oct. 11 was one of the largest awards she’s seen given out from the organization that typically gives out $250 grants to teachers for books.
“We really try to support students in their progress to becoming adults, and a huge part of it obviously is financial wellness and financial literacy,” Hill said.
“If more kids had that opportunity, I think we’d probably be in a better situation in our country.”