School of Economics Opens Downtown Program for City Kids

A mural by Sike Style and JT Daniels greets kids attending the new School of Economics in a downtown UMB office building.

By Kevin Collison

A program that’s been educating tens of thousands of suburban fifth and sixth graders about the business world for 25 years has opened a new downtown space to serve city kids.

The School of Economics, a program launched in Blue Springs in 1994, is now open for class in a 4,000 square-foot former cafeteria on the third floor of a UMB Financial Corp. office building at 928 Grand.

The program will offer daily, four-hour sessions for children attending KCMO and KCK public schools as well as city charter schools. The school will run 150 school days annually plus offer special summer camp sessions.

“Our mission is to introduce students to the world of business,” said Sue-Ann Johnson, School of Economics executive director.

“They need a place to practice skills and concepts they learn in class. For example, they find out about supply and demand by learning how a customer is dealt with in the marketplace.

“Children learn by doing and experiencing. This creates a memorable experience they can link to those concepts.”

Sue-Ann Johnson, School of Economics executive director, said experiencing the program helps students better understand business concepts.

The Blue Springs program has served 280,000 students since its inception, but it’s been difficult to reach for students in the urban core of KCMO and KCK.

That’s why a downtown location was chosen for the additional program.

“Being downtown makes us close to where the students are,” said Jen Houston, UMB Financial community relations manager.

“UMB has a volunteer time-off program and we heard from our folks about the School of Education. They were so impressed with the work they’re doing and knew the need for financial education was great.”

UMB invited to the School of Economics to set up a second shop in their office building. The space was completely gutted and brought back as a kid-size business district with storefronts pained by students at the Kansas City Art Institute.

The storefronts in the School of Economics space was created by students from the Kansas City Art Institute.

The downtown program will handle about 60 children daily from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. who are brought on field trips. To attend, a student must fill out a job application, be interviewed and preoepare a business plan with a budget.

In addition to learning about basic business concepts, students also develop leadership and teamwork skills, and customer service.

“We intentionally located here because its close to schools with low and moderate-income students,” Johnson said. “It’s also the center of the financial district.

“What better place to go than Ninth and Grand?”

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