By Deanna McGill | Photography by Dero Sanford
Education, economics and welfare of fellow Arkansans are Wilson family values. Nearly a century ago, the family established a private foundation for the purpose of cultivating opportunities and accessibility. As chairman of Economics Arkansas Board of Directors, Perry Wilson continues his family’s pragmatic approach to philanthropy.
Economics Arkansas provides teachers across the state with the training + resources to implement practical economic lessons into curriculum. At the heart of the organization’s unique mission is a belief that economic literacy is universally applicable because young people will lead the marketplace. Perry explains, “There is not another organization in the state training teachers how to integrate economic education into the classroom on the scale that Economics Arkansas supports.” Each year, nearly 3,000 teachers bring real-life, relevant economic and personal finance principles to the classroom for students of all ages. This method of learning develops transferrable skills – such as sound decision-making, budgeting, saving and investing – that last a lifetime. Economics Arkansas Executive Director Kathleen Lawson explains, “Economics is all about understanding how our world works and why we do the things we do. Once students realize that, a lightbulb comes on. That knowledge is enormously empowering and liberating.”
One of the most effective and popular Economics Arkansas initiatives is the Stock Market Game™. This investment, simulation competition for students, in grades 4th – 12th across the state, is comprised of teams that invest a hypothetical $100,000 portfolio “live” in the U.S. securities market. Arkansas leads the nation in the number of students participating per capita with approximately 15,000 students annually. “This fun yet educational program takes the ‘eek’ out of economics,” Kathleen jokes.
Almost 100 years ago, Perry’s great-great-grandfather established the family’s private foundation specified to benefit education in Arkansas, synonymous with Economics Arkansas’ goal of promoting economic literacy in Arkansas. Perry explains, “Education will always be the key to a thriving economy. I believe in the same convictions as my great-great-grandfather and I’m just proud to carry that belief forward as the fifth generation.” Perry’s father Mike Wilson served on the Economics Arkansas Board of Directors for 29 years and was recognized posthumously as a lifetime board of directors member. The family’s strong tradition of economic education in the classroom is steadfast.
Through Perry’s leadership, the foundation launched The Legacy Campaign as a way for Economics Arkansas to perpetuate and expand its 58 years of work. He pledged a matching gift from the family foundation and believes, “Match gifts are a great way to motivate other stakeholders in an organization to join alongside by saying ‘Hey, this organization is doing something special, and I’m going to be a part of it. Don’t you want to come be part of that as well?’” Growth has been steady for Economics Arkansas, but increased funding is needed to support the demands. This three year campaign will fund expansion, operational support and sustainability.
Economics is the science of decision-making; all decisions have a cost and consequence. Economics Arkansas develops a perspective of future generations to make smart choices which cycles to more opportunities and greater control over life events. The support for Economics Arkansas has individual, communal and statewide consequences.