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St. Louis Jewish Light

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St. Louis Jewish Light

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U. City teen receives major award for her work to improve peers’ financial literacy

Tikkun olam is a value that Wasserman tries to instill in InvestNow Clubs.
Photo courtesy of the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards
Dani Wasserman and InvestNow Clubs peers.

“Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!” 

Two students face off at the front of the classroom, eyes locked on the outcome of the game as a group of their peers watch intently. A “Jeopardy”-like screen glows behind them, as does the score: Tied. 

The two are vying for the final point in a game of financial literacy, and while the prizes might be small, the knowledge gained is not. At InvestNow Clubs, founded and led by incoming University City High School senior Dani Wasserman, the meetings are designed to be fun. 

Wasserman, 17, founded InvestNow Clubs at her high school when she was a freshman. The goal is to increase financial literacy at the high school level, especially for traditionally marginalized groups in an effort to achieve better economic equality. 

Recently, Wasserman, an alumna of Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School, was honored with the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award. This highly selective award recognizes up to 15 Jewish teens who are making a difference in their world with the values of tikkun olam — repairing the world — at heart. The prize comes with $36,000 that can be used to further the impact these teens are making, as well as their education.  

Wasserman said the club started small. 

Photo courtesy of the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards


“Originally, we started all on Zoom, [and] there were about five who started in my freshman year,” she said, explaining the club started in the 2020-21 academic year during the pandemic. “We saw this response that even though it’s a small cohort, they’re very interested and they are really engaged. Given that response from these students, we continued to grow and decided to expand the club within the University City School District [and] other schools.”

Since starting the organization three years ago, InvestNow Clubs has become a 501(c)(3) organization and raised more than $7,000, expanded its member base to more than 200 participants across four chapters (three in U. City schools and one in Ohio, begun by a friend of Wasserman’s) and is committed to alleviating intergenerational poverty by increasing the net worth of the families of its members.

In expanding her organization, Wasserman worked with University City High staff, specifically school counselor April Lawrence, who has seen Wasserman’s impact on her high school community. 

Photo courtesy of the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards

“Everyone loves Dani,” Lawrence said. “You’ll see her walking around the building, [and] she’s always pleasant. She’s always smiling. She’s just a very positive role model for her peers. We admire her a lot in our building.”

The admiration is mutual. With Wasserman’s $36,000 prize, she plans to give back to her school. 

“We will be donating a portion of the money back to the University City district with the goal of continuing to expand financial literacy within the curriculum and through all their elementary, middle and high schools,” said Wasserman, whose family belongs to Congregation B’nai Amoona. “We cannot thank [the staff] enough and appreciate their help. They have been some of the greatest supporters, and we definitely want to give back to them.”

Each InvestNow Clubs chapter meets at least once a month, where members learn about the stock market and how to use a credit card, among other skills. As the year advances, so does the curriculum. 

“We ultimately move into actually investing money in the stock market, which I think is a unique experience for investment club students as they have very little exposure outside of the club,” Wasserman said. “Every club at the moment is given $500, and with the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award, we will provide the clubs with more money to invest in the stock market.”

Though InvestNow Clubs has grown, Wasserman faces challenges in making the curriculum interesting for students and dismantling the idea that learning about finances is boring.

“[We’re] learning how to maneuver around that stigma and approach the students in a very fun and engaging way,” she  said. “Financial literacy can be a really fun, unique experience. You get some free food, make some great friends, build a community and learn how to invest in the stock market and help to alleviate intergenerational poverty.”

Now that she’s won the award, Wasserman is looking to the future of InvestNow Clubs. 

“Our goal is really just to continue to expand, not only within the high school demographic, but also within elementary and middle schools so that we can instill these values at a younger age,” she said. “I think that with the funding from the Diller award, we will be able to achieve these goals.”

As for Wasserman’s future plans, she wants to major in business in college and pursue a career in real estate development. 

Sharonica Hardin-Bartley, University City schools superintendent, hopes that InvestNow Clubs will grow even after Wasserman graduates. Hardin-Bartley submitted Wasserman’s application for the Diller award and has watched InvestNow Clubs grow since Wasserman’s freshman year. 

“I think that Dani represents the diversity and richness of our students,” Hardin-Bartley said. “I’m just excited and thrilled that she has received this honor. I know that her impact will be felt in University City schools for many years to come.”

Tikkun olam is a value that Wasserman tries to instill in InvestNow Clubs, applying the “teach a man to fish” philosophy to create positive financial habits and a more equitable economic society for the future. 

“We’re going to work with you over the course of the next four, five or six years to instill these values and to help you understand how you can create a financially stable life,” Wasserman said. “So by teaching those skills, which for me is what tikkun olam means, is to uplift lives and provide a level of self-sufficiency and community for all members.” 

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