Meet this professional who is teaching students the importance of financial literacy.
AVID coordinator, Shaughn Thomas was selected as the 2016 Lake Olympia Middle School “Millionaire Teacher,” an honor that reminds him that teaching children is his calling. I received my MBA in 2011 and found it difficult to find a job that I truly enjoyed, he said. When I started teaching, I can honestly say this was the first time it didn’t feel like work. Thomas found his passion for financial literacy, a skill set we don’t teach enough in our community, while teaching it to his students via his foundation, Invest in Yourself Foundation Inc. His Emmy-nominated students are investing in Snapchat, Apple, and Nike to name a few.
He attended Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, LA where he obtained his B.S. in Sales & Marketing. Thomas continued his passion for business at Texas Southern University in Houston, TX where he obtained his Master’s in Business Administration. Upon completion, Thomas remained in Houston and later joined the Fort Bend ISD.
On a day-to-day basis, what would you say you do? When does your day start? When does your day end?
Each day I wake up around 4:30 am and make it to the gym around 5:00 am. I usually head to work around 7. The job does not officially start until 8:15 am but I arrive to work 30-45 minutes early each day because I like to get settled and get into my zone while listening to sports talk radio. From there my students keep me busy until school lets out around 4 pm. I also run an after-school program called the Wall Street Warriors. This does not end until about 5:30. The purpose of this program is to teach the students financial literacy. This consists of teaching students about banking, saving, and investing their money. It is important to teach them early, as financial literacy is not taught to our youth and they grow up not being the best at managing money.
The students are paid a stipend each month for participation and attendance in the program. It is an “earn while you learn” philosophy. Each month, the students take a “bank trip” and deposit the money that they have earned. Once the money is deposited, they are to invest half of the money into the stock market in a company that they have conducted researched. They are also required to deliver presentations on why they would like to purchase shares in a specific company. This also helps with their public speaking, which is crucial to being successful in a global society. The Wall Street Warriors are shareholders in companies such Apple, Snapchat, Revlon, Google, and Nike.
In September 2016, The Wall Street Warriors received a $45,000 grant from State Farm Youth Advisory Board for a service learning project called “Invest in Yourself.” The purpose of the project is for our Wall Street Warriors (middle school students) to educate members of their family and community on the importance of financial literacy to help change the dynamic for current and future generations. They will educate 100 people through a student facilitated workshops. After the workshops, the participants will open investment accounts on the spot and will be gifted money to go towards their first investment. The workshops will take place during April and May.
What inspires you to wake up every day and go to work?
I hardly ever take days off because I honestly do not know what to do with myself when I do. All I can think about is what my students are doing and what funny stories they had for me that I missed out on. I truly am passionate about my students and the youth in general. I found my passion about three years ago and I want to do everything in my power to reach my full potential and impact as many young people as I can before my time is up.
Tell me about the program AVID and your involvement?
AVID is a nationwide program. It stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. The purpose of the program is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society. The beautiful part about this program is that it helps expose middle school students to not only the idea of college but what tools you need to reach and become successful while there. I focus on the whole child. It is my job to ensure that they are successful in all their classes. They are aware and calculate their GPA each week to see if they are maintaining a least a 3.0 average. I’m here to help them understand grades are crucial to not only being admitted into college but also receiving scholarships. My goal is to have each one of my students attend college with some sort of scholarship to help ease the load for their parents. We have college students who attend our classes twice a week to help with in-class tutorials. This also gives the students a chance to interact with current college students on a consistent basis. In my class, we also participate in college tours. So far we have visited Texas Southern University, Prairie View A&M, and Rice University. We will visit University of Houston-Downtown and University of Texas at Austin in April and May.
What do you hope to leave with every student you meet?
I want them to become confident and know that they can truly become anything they want to in life. I let them know they must work hard to become successful. There are no shortcuts and I do not accept excuses! One of the many discussions we regularly have is that “It is not your teacher’s fault that you aren’t passing or that you didn’t score a good grade on an assignment or test.” It is YOUR own fault. Did you truly study or go to tutorials? If not, then you cannot blame anyone but yourself.
In life, you will meet people who you do not necessarily care for but you must suck it up and make it work. Learn how people operate and how to work with them. I also encourage my students to showcase their gifts and talents which can lead to helping them find their passion. I believe It is extremely important to help the youth find their passion early. This will allow them to pursue their talents and figure out ways to make a living out, even at their current age.
When did you transition from getting your MBA and working in the industry to teaching? What made you want to teach?
I received my MBA in 2011 and found it difficult to find a job that I truly enjoyed. While at work, I would ponder daily if this was the career for me. I felt empty inside because it appears I wasn’t serving my real purpose. Now, if you told me while I was in college that I was going to be a teacher, I would have laughed you out of the building.
I took the necessary classes and passed the test the first time to become certified. I taught my first class in fall 2013. When I started teaching, I can honestly say this was the first time it didn’t feel like work. I see myself in the students and I’m truly a big kid at heart. I can’t believe I get paid to do this.
What career advice would you have for your 21-year-old self if you knew then what you know now?
Do something you really love. If you work in a field that you love and perfect your craft, the money will come. Happiness and growth should be the focus.
Is there a quote(s) or verse(s) that pushes you every day?
“Don’t rest on your laurels.” This is a quote that my dad has told me for as long as I remember. I could have created the light bulb yesterday and he would tell me that was yesterday, but what have you done for me today son. Keeping this mindset helps me to push through every day and to never get comfortable. There is always something to do and you can always push yourself to new heights.
What do you believe HBCUs can do to spur more innovation and entrepreneurship with their students and the local community?
I believe that to spur innovation and entrepreneurship, HBCU’s must make a better effort of teaching financial literacy. This is something that is lacking in our communities. Financial freedom is the goal. For this to transpire, we must make sure everyone has a strong foundation. I believe there needs to be programs or initiatives where we make it mandatory for our freshman students to take at least one financial literacy class and create projects where they must go and teach the local communities. We must come together and educate one another so that we can create wealth in our communities again.
What was your most memorable HBCU memory?
My first day on campus was the most memorable HBCU memory. This was the first time that I saw so many African Americans in one place that were trying to make something of themselves. I had never seen so much positivity in one place as well as pride. I am truly proud that I attended the best HBCU, Xavier University of Louisiana. It truly helped mold me into the person that I am today. The sense of pride and community is something that I believe all our youth should experience.
The best professional advice you’ve ever received?
Always do your best work. You never know who is watching so you always want to have the best representation of yourself.
Most people don’t know…
I’m an avid movie watcher. I usually go to the movies almost every Saturday, matinee, of course, lol. This is my time to let my brain relax and enjoy a great film.
What’s on your desk?
On my desk, you will find a 50oz bottle of alkaline water, a computer, loose papers, and my daily, weekly, and monthly task list. These are items that I must accomplish each day, week, or month for me to stay ahead of the curve. Each day I give myself a percentage grade of how well I performed. So, if I have 10 items to complete that day, and I only complete 7, that is a 70% which is a letter grade of a C. It’s a personal game I play to aid in me becoming as efficient as possible.