Students will have the chance to learn how to spot a pyramid scheme, how to avoid credit card fraud or how to recognize an Internet stock market swindle when they play "Mallopoly" on March 28 at the Meadowbrook Mall.
For one day, the mall will become an oversized classroom for 120 sophomores from the five public high schools and Notre Dame. Along with the mall, the state Auditor's Office and the Harrison County Board of Education have teamed up to offer an all-day seminar that will feature speakers with backgrounds in every aspect of finances.
The event, called Mallopoly: Financial Literacy Pilot Program, also will be open to the public. It begins with the arrival of the students at 9 a.m. and continues through 2 p.m., when the students return to their schools.
Justin Southern, investor education field services communicator with the state Auditor's Office, said the program is designed to help students become more financially savvy.
"It's good to get information to these students before they go off to college and get deluged with credit card offers or with offers for some fraudulent scheme. The more they know, the better equipped they will be to make informed financial decisions," Southern said.
Several "classrooms" will be set up around the mall and students will visit each one as if attending a regular class. Michael Paris, national president of the Better Business Bureau, will be one of the class speakers, along with employees from the Federal Reserve and the National Council of Economic Educators. Other speakers will talk about the public debt and how it affects the economy, and about investing in the stock market.
"The students will be shown the 'magic of compounding,' and learn the difference between investing $2,000 per year right after high school as opposed to waiting until you're in your 30s," Southern said.
M.E. Gamble, director of marketing for the Meadowbrook Mall, said Mallopoly will be a good opportunity for the public to see what students are learning in school.
"Sometimes people don't get the chance to see what takes place in the classroom. This will give them a chance to observe the students, and also to learn a little more about finances," she said.
Stores throughout the mall have donated prizes and gift certificates to help make Mallopoly more interesting, Gamble said. Students also will receive a discount lunch at the mall's food court.
"Everyone has been so cooperative with this venture, and we're really looking forward to having the students here. The more they learn about spending money responsibly, the better that is for us," Gamble said.
The program also fits in with the county's School-to-Work initiative, according to Susan Collins, administrative assistant for adolescent education.
"The whole day will allow students interaction with people in various careers, along with teaching them about financial responsibility. It's a good opportunity to get the students out of the classroom and talking with people in the field of finance," she said.