Launching its 25th year, Balancing the Books (BTB) is celebrating a milestone reflective of substantial achievement as a long-running literacy initiative.
Balancing the Books is a collaboration among the Mary Ann Shaw Center for Public Community Service, the Martin J. Whitman School of Management (WSM) and the Syracuse City School District (SCSD). This partnership facilitates lessons in financial literacy and life skills with the aim of helping SCSD students develop the tools to become fiscally responsible adults.
“Balancing the Books is a unique and remarkable initiative because of its partnership with the Whitman School, and it’s impact on the Whitman students and SCSD students. It has stood as a significant learning model for 25 years that critically supports the goals of our new strategic plan 100%,” says Pamela Kirwin Heintz, associate vice president and director, Mary Ann Shaw Center for Public and Community Service.
Whitman students volunteer as tutors to work with a consistent cohort of local students at Huntington Middle School and Henninger High School. Through the support from the Shaw Center, SCSD and Leadership Interns, BTB tutors integrate the knowledge they learn in their own classrooms into the weekly lesson plans they bring to middle and high school students. Topics include public speaking, budgeting and investing, professional writing, real estate and much more.
The tutors’ impact goes further, however, as they develop close relationships with the younger students and foster a reciprocal learning experience. BTB tutors encourage students to persist toward graduation and work for their future goals, becoming role models and also friends.
Program Coordinator Evan Kalish ‘25 shares his experience and relationships developed with the students. “This [reciprocal learning] means to treat everything as an experience for learning and growth. I believe this mindset is incredibly important for students and young professionals alike to adopt and practice in their own live,” he says.
The middle and high school students constantly inspire the volunteer tutors from the Whitman School. BTB Site Coordinator Maddie Bailey ‘26 talked about the values she learned during her time. “My first year at Whitman, I signed up for Balancing the Books as a way to get more involved, but I wasn’t expecting to be as transformed as I was throughout the program,” Bailey states. “You don’t anticipate making connections so quickly, but these kids are so engaged.”
Through their commitment to the program, the tutors come to better understand the experience of a SCSD student. Jane Murphy ‘26, a BTB site coordinator, describes what she has learned as a tutor. “You cannot just be in a bubble your entire life and only surround yourself with people that are similar to you,” she says. “These kids have shown me how important it is to meet people and understand lives that are different from my own.”
Over the past 25 years, Whitman tutors, faculty and SCSD students have collaborated to make Balancing the Books an invaluable program that will continue to make an impact for all involved well into the future.