High school girls learn financial literacy skills from women leaders

Community involvement


When a teacher asked a group of high school girls: “How many of you know what a financial advisor is?” No one raised their hand.

“Well, that’s exactly why these women are here,” the teacher added.

Those women are employees at RBC Wealth Management–U.S., Twin Cities sponsor of Rock the Street, Wall Street (RTSWS), a nonprofit organization that provides financial literacy education to high school girls.

RBC volunteers Teresa Alewine, Darla Kashian, Jackie Larson, Stacie Nabedrick and Evelyn Rhines committed to spending one hour a week for five weeks students from Hiawatha Collegiate High School. They taught the basics of investing and budgeting but their commitment extends beyond basic financial concepts. As volunteers, each woman is serving as a role model and providing valuable insight into what a career in finance might look like.

Showing girls what they’re capable of

Although women account for just over half of the U.S. population, they represent only 18.1 percent of financial advisors nationwide, according to a 2020 report by Cerulli Associates. The rate of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses taken by girls/women decreases at the undergraduate level and gender disparities begin to emerge, especially for minority women.

Because of this lack of female representation in the industry, it can be difficult for young girls to picture themselves pursuing careers in finance, especially when they lack female role models in the real world.

That’s where the RBC Wealth Management volunteers come in. Throughout the five-week RTSWS program, the students, who are juniors and seniors in high school, met with the volunteers to learn positive money management habits and the basics of budgeting. Simultaneously, the girls have seen the real-world application of the math content they learn in the classroom.

“I think it’s important for everyone to understand finances at some level,” says Angie O’Leary, head of wealth planning at RBC Wealth Management. “In schools we teach how to take care of an egg for a week, but that’s not applicable to all students. Everyone has to pay rent and figure out a personal budget. Exposing students—especially girls—so they have the confidence they need to manage their personal finances, and allowing them to see themselves in the faces of incredible people like these volunteers is crucial.”

RBC employees present to high school students

Kristen Kimmell (top left), Darla Kashian (center) and Jackie Larson (top right) lead a Rock the Street, Wall Street classroom session with Hiawatha Collegiate High School’s 2019 Rock the Street, Wall Street participants.

In addition to money management skills and budgeting, the students have also learned basic financial terms and concepts, conducted business case studies, learned about the capital markets and practiced buying stock.

“What many people don’t know is that being a financial advisor actually has very little to do with math,” says Kashian, a financial advisor at RBC Wealth Management. “Yes, you have be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide, but what’s more important is being able to communicate, build relationships and sell ideas.”

At the end of the course, the girls will take a field trip to RBC Wealth Management’s downtown Minneapolis headquarters to tour the firm, meet with executives, and listen to a panel discussion at the Women’s Association of Financial Advisors (WAFA) conference.

Making an impact

student Kimaria Brown works at her desk

Hiawatha Collegiate High School senior Kimaria Brown

Since the launch of RTSWS in 2013, more than 3,000 girls across 18 U.S. cities have gone through the program, with 69 percent of participants coming from minority communities and 44 percent coming from low-income households. Girls who have gone through the RTSWS program are five times more likely than the national average to pursue college degrees in finance, economics or a related field.

Kimaria Brown, a senior at Hiawatha and a RTSWS participant, says she was most excited to learn how to budget and manage money before heading off to college. “Last week we learned about saving for retirement and investing. I’m excited because these are skills that I will need for the future.”

Committed to a better future. Learn how RBC Wealth Management supports the communities where we live and work. 

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