Student non profit makes finals in White House contest

Student mentors take their approach to financial literacy national.

By Angela Li

Moneythink, a national nonprofit organization that started as an RSO here, has advanced to the final round of the White House’s Campus Champions of Change Challenge, beating out 1400 applicants for one of 15 finalist spots.

The competition recognizes outstanding student groups in colleges and universities throughout the U.S. The winner will be determined based on the number of votes each organization garners online.

The five top-voted groups will be invited to the White House and featured on mtvU and MTV Act, two subsidiaries of MTV that focus on student life and activism. They will also have the opportunity to host an episode of mtvU’s “The Dean’s List.”

Moneythink puts undergraduates in the classrooms of local high school juniors and seniors, instructing students in financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Fourth-year Ted Gonder, executive director and co-founder of Moneythink, hopes that winning the competition will “get [Moneythink’s model] in front of important officials and elevate financial education and peer mentorship as solutions worthy of national prioritization,” he said in an e-mail.

The organization, which originated as a service arm of the investment RSO Blue Chips, became a separate RSO in 2009 and a nonprofit in October 2010. Currently run on volunteer power alone, Moneythink plans to make the transition into a professional organization in June, according to Gonder.

Students enrolled in Moneythink mentorships work on developing one profitable venture over the course of several weekly sessions. Past projects have ranged from lemonade stands to a clothing store to services, such as organizing a school dance, according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Since its establishment, Moneythink has worked with more than 1,700 urban high school students and has spread to 17 schools in the country, including Stanford, Columbia, and Northwestern.

As of press time, Moneythink is sitting in sixth place with more than 12,000 votes, although the first-place competitor, a food pantry for students run out of the University of Arkansas, has almost three times that amount. One other project in the running is focused on finance: a micro-loan initiative operated out of Grinnell College.