Show them the money: Huntington Beach teenager expands financial literacy program

Dylan Jin-Ngo, center, and Gavin Glickman, right, Juliana Buelna, left, at the Boys & Girls Club  Mar Vista Gardens
Dylan Jin-Ngo, center, and Gavin Glickman, right, present a check to Yuliana Buelna at the Boys & Girls Club of Mar Vista Gardens on Tuesday.
(Courtesy of Youth Investors Corp.)

Dylan Jin-Ngo may run a nonprofit, but it’s OK if the kids in his Youth Investors Corp. program turn one.

In fact, it’s encouraged.

The 17-year-old from Huntington Beach recently completed the summer session with his organzation, aimed at increasing financial literacy among children and teenagers.

Jin-Ngo, an incoming senior boarding school student at the Thacher School of Ojai, has vastly expanded his program since starting it last summer with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Huntington Valley.

Jin-Ngo recruited his best friend and classmate, Joaquin Cardoza of Brentwood, to run the Youth Investors Corp. program in the Los Angeles area. The organization is now partnered with nine different Boys & Girls Clubs in Los Angeles and Orange counties. More than 350 middle school and high school students have now participated in the five-week course which features a stock market simulation game.

“We are so incredibly excited and honored that our mission is something that’s really been catching on, in terms of interest from other people and other institutions,” Jin-Ngo said. “It’s something that’s very shocking to me. It’s incredible.”

The Youth Investors Corp. summer session concluded Tuesday. Jin-Ngo and Cardoza were on hand at the Mar Vista Gardens branch of the Boys & Girls Club to present a $500 grant to the winner of the summer session, Yuliana Buelna of Culver City.

The majority of the kids in the program are still in Orange County, but Cardoza was able to offer in-person instruction two days a week during the course to the Los Angeles students. The Orange County program was offered on Zoom, but Jin-Ngo said he is hopeful that it will be in person for the fall session.

Buelna, who turns 18 next week, beat out a total of 93 other contestants in the stock simulation game to earn the grant. She is a recent graduate of Venice High School who has enrolled at Santa Monica College. She said she was interested in stocks before, referencing the recent mania over GameStop stock.

“I would look at videos, but I would always get confused,” she said. “This program has really helped me. I think it’s a great program. I wish as a younger person I would have learned more, so I would have been exposed to it.”

Joaquin Cardoza teaches a class at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Monica on July 6.
Joaquin Cardoza teaches a class at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Monica on July 6.
(Courtesy of Youth Investors Corp.)

When Jin-Ngo pitched the program to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica, teen coordinator Claudia Jimenez listened. She said the program especially sparked something in three teens who are about to age out of the Boys & Girls Club, including Buelna.

“When we found out that it was a financial literacy program, we jumped at the chance,” Jimenez said. “We think it’s super-important for teens to be exposed to that. Currently, here at our site, we have 13- to 18-year-olds. Having them exposed to that so early, we didn’t want to miss that chance.”

Jin-Ngo isn’t planning to stop here. He said he is currently working with state Assemblyman Randy Voepel (R-Santee) on a bill, AB 423, that would introduce a similar pilot program in public high schools.

Jin-Ngo added that he has a meeting set up with Mari Barke, the president of the Orange County Board of Education, on Friday.

“I really want to get the ball moving about how we can really dramatically increase our impact as a nonprofit,” he said. “We really want to maximize impact, and the way we think we can do that is by helping usher a pilot program in schools.”

Although he is only in high school himself, Jin-Ngo is happy that he is spreading the word about financial literacy to his peers. Cardoza added that he thinks it’s impossible to totally quantify how valuable that knowledge is.

“But every time I meet someone and tell them about what I’m doing, they say, ‘Oh my God, that’s great, I wish I learned that earlier,’” Cardoza said. “So I think it’s really valuable. The younger you start investing your money smartly, the more you’ll have for your future.”

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