Return on Investment: Middle School Skills Pay Off Years Later

It began as a way to fill her afternoons, to spend time with her friends. She didn’t think it would lead her to build new life-changing relationships and help pave the way to an exciting future. Roobvia Bernadin became a part of Citizen Schools as a 6th grader at the Washington Irving Middle School in the Roslindale section of Boston in 2004. A month into the extended-day program, she and her classmates watched presentations from an array of volunteer teachers, offering apprenticeship courses for them to choose based on their passions. One choice caught her eye: “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, with Fidelity Investments.”

“They get you with that title! It was so enticing,” Roobvia proclaimed, relaxing on spring break from college in Worcester. “I never would have guessed that I would be learning about stocks and bonds at that age.” She didn’t guess either that she would be going home and sharing with her mom her weekly lessons, including the importance of establishing spending “needs” versus “wants.” 431596_10150707817839739_12951774_n The three volunteer Citizen Teachers from Fidelity including Karen Jacquart, filled their classes with so many relevant examples that Roobvia still carries the lessons with her to this day. “The day we learned about loans was also the day I learned how careful you have to be about borrowing money,” she recently recalled.

Although their lessons might not have been immediately applicable to the young 6th grader and her peers, understanding the basics of finance has helped her manage her own money and provide advice to others. “I try to advise my friends now, especially now that we’re all in college. I tell them, ‘Be careful of that interest rate, you’ll owe more than you’ll get!’”

The importance of planning was brought to life again as she entered 8th Grade Academy, a key element of Citizen Schools’ program developed through Fidelity’s national partnership. “I didn’t want to sign up at first,” she reflected. “The Saturday morning wake-up calls for college visits weren’t appealing, but my TL [Team Leader] wouldn’t give up and she got my mom to convince me.” And as soon as she joined, she never looked back.

“As soon as I got to know people in the program, I felt like I had known them forever. We all got along so well. I now had this bubble of friends in Boston that all went to other schools. I never would have met them otherwise.” But it wasn’t only the companionship of new friends that kept her coming back. “I’m so thankful [to 8th Grade Academy] for teaching me how to select and apply to the top tier high schools,” a process every 8th grader must navigate in Boston.

With the assistance of her 8th Grade Academy mentors, Roobvia was able to take and pass the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) and got into John DO'Bryant School of Math & Science. Through the program she also learned about Boston Arts Academy, which has an auditions based application process. After she was accepted into the school she decided to continue to pursue her passion for music and enrolled in the high school. “Had I not learned about these processes [in 8th Grade Academy], I would have gone to a district school and may not have had such a great education.”

It was in 8th Grade Academy that she was also exposed to what lay beyond high school.  Few of her friends in 8th grade were thinking about college let alone visiting campuses regularly. “It was great to be able to visit a college as an 8th grader and already have an idea of what college is like, what the classrooms look like, what the students are saying about it. None of my friends had that.”

This early planning and visualization helped Roobvia as she entered high school at Boston Arts Academy, pursuing her passion for singing. As a junior, Roobvia even sang her way through a speech at Citizen Schools’ annual gala, A WOW! Affair, reflecting on how apprenticeships and 8th Grade Academy helped give her middle school experience “swing”.

The “swing” Roobvia developed in her middle school years helped to carry her through high school as she prepared for her future. She already knew what lay ahead for her college plans, she knew the admissions process, and she knew the financial planning necessary to get there.

Citizen Schools continued to influence her during high school as she secured an internship at the national headquarters in Boston. She was sitting in on a training session for mentors when the instructor described the learning process. She was fascinated to discover how the brain, particularly that of a young student, learns and retains information. She was hooked on neuroscience.

Currently a sophomore at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., Roobvia is on track to major in music with a pre-med concentration. She hopes to one day become a brain surgeon who uses music as a therapy to help her patients, combining her passions.

This April, Citizen Schools will again hold its “A WOW! Affair” gala in Boston, and although Roobvia won’t be bringing her singing talents to the stage, students currently participating in “Invest like a Millionaire, with Fidelity Investments” (the current adaptation of the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” apprenticeship) and the 8th Grade Academy writing program will be teaching back what they’ve learned. Fidelity and its employees will be honored for their volunteerism and  long-standing national partnership.

Roobvia is already looking ahead to her future. “I know that I’ll have a bigger network in the future because of 8th Grade Academy and the people in that program. We’re each doing exciting things separately and I see us working together down the line.” With tools from Citizen Schools and Fidelity, the lessons of middle school are bound to pay off wherever her journey takes her!