With a name like Morgan Stanley, there might be some expectations about him being a financially savvy person, considering there’s also a major U.S.-based global investment bank with the same name.
Greenwood High School student Morgan D. Stanley is already living up to and exceeding those expectations at the age of 16.
Stanley was presented with a $4,000 scholarship prize Wednesday at Planters Bank on Medallion Drive for winning third place in the National Financial Bee. Almost 3,000 students from across the country competed, and only three scholarship winners, including Stanley, were selected — the top prize went to a student in New Hampshire and second place to a student in California.
When Stanley found out he was one of the top three, he said, “I was surprised, because they said I was a national winner. ... Out of thousands of people, I won. It was a great feeling.”
The national competition was organized by EVERFI, a digital financial literacy company that provides financial literacy modules for nonprofits, schools and community organizations across the nation, said Christopher Lewis, Planters Bank CRA officer who manages financial literacy programs and community outreach.
Planters Bank sponsored the financial education program locally in conjunction with EVERFI.
“During COVID-19, (EVERFI) created this program as an option for students who are undergoing distance learning to still have access to financial literacy modules,” Lewis said.
Lewis said about 350 area students participated in the program, which included a five-part course and an essay scholarship contest, where students wrote about their financial dreams and how they plan to achieve them.
The son of Cathy Stanley and Jose Terry, both of Greenwood, the soon-to-be GHS junior found out about the scholarship opportunity from his uncle, William Walker. The Financial Bee course and essay contest was held in April.
Nationwide nearly 40,000 students participated in the course, and nearly 3,000 of those students submitted essays.
“His essay was very heartfelt,” said Lewis.
At the scholarship presentation, Stanley was congratulated by bank staff and Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School District administrators, who attended the event.
“We came over to help congratulate him on what is really a high honor for not just the district but for the entire Leflore County,” said Dr. Mary Brown, the district’s superintendent. “Him being the third out of approximately 3,000 students, that’s a high honor, and we’re proud of Morgan.”
In Stanley’s essay, he said his biggest financial dream is to create a youth orchestra designed to provide instruments to talented individuals who cannot afford their own.
“When I was in sixth grade, I wanted to always play the saxophone,” he said.
Stanley had just joined the school band, and at the time, his mother couldn’t afford a saxophone. So Stanley had to learn to play another instrument.
“It’s like a dream, and once you have a dream, you just can’t shake that feeling,” he said.
He wrote in his essay, “I struggled learning other instruments such as baritone and percussion instruments because I always knew it wasn’t for me. That all changed when I got my tenor sax. I was a natural. I could instantly play the horn like I was gifted to. That’s why having a youth orchestra is my biggest financial dream.”
Stanley said he heard in a commercial the saying, “The world equally distributes talent, but it doesn’t equally distribute opportunity.”
“I feel like there are a lot of people who’d be really successful if they had the opportunity. ... And it would be a great thing if I could equally distribute that opportunity to people who don’t have it,” he said.
Stanley has always liked music. He plays the xylophone in the Greenwood High School band. His mother recently bought him a saxophone, and Stanley is teaching himself to play at home. He’s hoping to soon transfer to the saxophone section in the band.
Stanley said his grandfather, Morris Stanley, encouraged him to play the saxophone. His grandfather also encouraged him to play the organ and piano, and the 16-year-old is the second chair organist at his church, Jerusalem Church of God in Christ.
“My grandfather is a very inspirational person,” Stanley said.
In fact, his grandfather was also the inspiration behind one of Stanley’s essay paragraphs where he quotes B.B. King.
Stanley wrote, “Like B.B. King said, ‘the eagle flies on Friday,’ but today I’m chopping the wings off, so the eagle stays in my wallet.”
He said his grandfather had once told him what that song lyric from B.B. King’s “Call It Stormy Monday” meant.
“He told me that Friday is a common day that a lot of people get paid, and the eagle is on the dollar bill,” Stanley said. “He said the eagle is going to fly, because people are going to cash their checks and spend their money.”
So to reach his financial goals, Stanley is going to save money rather than spend it — keeping the “eagle” in his wallet.
From the Financial Bee course, Stanley learned about the 50/30/20 rule.
“You use half of the money you make on your bills; you use 30% on things you need to pay back, like anything you owe; and you will save 20% of what you have left for your needs or wants,” Stanley said.
He’s planning to stick with the 50/30/20 rule and is starting by saving money. He’s started by saving his change.
“I just got a jar and started saving all of my change. Once a week I count it, and I have close to $100 in change,” he said.
Stanley also learned about the importance of a credit score.
“Good credit is like the foundation for everything,” he said, “if you want to be approved for a house or a loan or a car.”
Stanley is an all-A student and said his favorite subject is chemistry. He just completed his 10th grade year at Greenwood High, where he is part of the Student Advisory Committee.
Stanley is planning to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he wants to study medicine. He also has an interest in business, but his goal is to become a general physician.
Brown said Stanley is not only a model student, but “one who will definitely be an example for all to look at, to just go after their dreams or take action on their goals,” she said. “We’re so very proud of him.”
Brown said she was impressed by Stanley’s essay, “because he wanted to create something for other students who may need assistance with buying instruments, and that spirit of giving was derived from him stating in his essay that he didn’t have (an instrument).”
The superintendent said financial education is “extremely important to high school students, because they are on their way to or entering into adulthood.
“They do need to know what it takes to make good financial decisions. Not only is it good for high school students, it’s also good for students pre-K up until high school, because introducing financial literacy and information to them will help them as they matriculate into adulthood to become better stewards over their finances.”
Stanley said he thinks other high school students would benefit from learning more about finances.
“When you are in high school and you turn 16, you are able to get a job, and I think when you get a job you should know how to manage your money,” he said. “A lot of times, people don’t know how to manage their money, and they buy things they don’t need.”
Stanley’s mother, Cathy, said she is very proud of her son.
“I’m amazed at everything he does,” she said. “When I was his age, I wasn’t thinking about the future; I was just going to school. So I am proud of him and his sisters and brother; they all amaze me. I’m just very blessed and thankful.”
Lewis said, “A special congratulations to Morgan for reaching out and applying for the scholarship and shedding a positive light on Greenwood, Mississippi.”
• Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.