It is only about four miles from Eastern High School to the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. But for some students, that distance can sometimes feel a world away from high-school hallways, and a career in economics can feel even more distant. On June 1, a group of 17 Eastern High School students from the school’s Future Economists Academy got near to both when they earned the opportunity to present their work to IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
Creating the Academy
The academy is a joint initiative by IMF staff volunteers and Serve Your City (SYC), a DC nonprofit that provides opportunity and experiences for at-risk students. SYC helped coordinate the program and organize the students for the three-week after-school program at Eastern High School, where the nonprofit has a long history of program development. Together with Marcelina Pascual, a math and business teacher, SYC provided assistance in attracting students to the program and in supporting them to its conclusion.
The goal of the academy is to teach basic principles of economics to high school students in the DC area and to expose them to the role the IMF plays in promoting international financial stability.
About 30 IMF staff developed case studies about two fictional economies facing challenges. Students received information about the economies of Galtland and Capsland. They were then asked to help the fictional governments negotiate the economic challenge resulting from a downturn in business creation and tourism and an upswing in the cost of borrowing.
IMF volunteers introduced a case to each group of students in the classroom and guided them through the basic issues. Students then developed a set of recommendations for the fictional economy’s government. IMF staff coached the students to help them work through the case and finalize their recommendations.
On the final day of the program, which took place on June 1, students visited the IMF on a field trip. There they were introduced to the organization’s work around the globe and then given an opportunity to present their recommendations to IMF senior staff acting as the executive board, mirroring a real IMF board meeting. Students answered questions, getting the opportunity to defend their recommended solutions in a low-stakes, highly teachable environment. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde met with the students and answered questions.
The students clearly impressed those in attendance. Udi Rosenhand, one of the IMF staff who was a coordinator of the Future Economists Academy, praised their work. “These students should be commended for their hard work on this project. They wrestled with the issues presented in the case study, developed original solutions, and managed to do it all while juggling their regular class assignments. They showed strong aptitude and potential. I’m confident they’ll continue to be successful, and am eager to see their future achievements!”
Exactly Like the IMF
SYC Executive Director Maurice Cook enthusiastically endorsed the Future Economists Academy program and the opportunity it provides for students. “It was exactly like what the IMF does, just with a made-up country. It is the ideal opportunity to talk about problem-solving. The Future Economist Academy at Eastern High School is a great opportunity to expose, train, and recruit students into careers in business and economics.”
Cook said that for SYC, facilitating the academy is a way to expose students to problem-solving techniques from people who use them to find solutions on an international scale. The program also opened eyes to the possibilities of a career in economics and the ways that such a position can be interesting and fulfilling.
Involve(d) to Serve Your City
The IMF is one of many large organizations that draws employees into the metro area. Over the years, IMF staff have been developing ways of engaging with the residents of DC. Managing Director Lagarde describes how “being involved in the community where we live and work is important to us here at the IMF.”
In 1994, IMF staff established the International Volunteer Venture (INVOLVE), a group that coordinates volunteer activities. IMF staff have also been mentoring in local schools since 1996, often working with community-based organizations like Serve Your City that have established relationships with the schools.
Lagarde said, “Our staff volunteering program offers staff a chance to give back with their time and expertise and make a difference, and we take that very seriously. The Future Economists Academy is one initiative by staff that benefits school-aged children.”
Cook said, “Madame Lagarde showered our students with praise for their keen analysis and hard work. We are so appreciative to receive so much of her time and attention, and we want to thank all of the IMF staff who welcomed and accommodated our group.”