The entire student body packed into the auditorium, but they weren’t sure why.
Indira Burani, a chemistry and environmental science teacher at George Washington, said neither the students nor teachers were told whom the guest speaker was, leading to a lot of guessing and anticipation.
“They will call us to the auditorium. That’s all we knew,” Burani said.
Caitlyn Boyle, Washington’s community school coordinator, said only 3 staff members knew the identity of the speaker in advance. When Hart arrived, the students erupted in cheers and applause.
“I think they were beside themselves when he walked out,” Boyle said. “It was incredible to watch, I imagine they felt special.”
Hart partnered with Chase Bank to create The Hart Of It All, an initiative promoting financial health. The initiative includes a series of episodes in which Hart helps individuals work out a budget and establish healthy spending habits.
“What I had a problem with and what my partners at Chase are helping me with is the lack of information that’s been given. Nobody’s getting the right information. There’s a gap,” Hart said during his talk to the students.
Hart said he believes that “cash-poor” communities stay that way because people don’t learn in school or elsewhere how to manage money.
“It’s an understanding of how to make your money work for you,” Hart said. “It’s not to make money to buy things, it’s to make money to own things. The financial lessons? They’re not taught, they’re discovered.”
A representative from Chase contacted Boyle to coordinate Hart’s appearance at the school. At the end, Hart took questions from the audience.
Among them was 15 year-old Amir Ilhomov. The 10th-grader asked Hart a relevant question, but then, he asked Hart for a scholarship.
“When Kevin Hart came and I saw that he was talking about finance, he was talking about money, he was talking about college, he was talking about future, and he was sponsored by Chase, that all inspired me and that all came to my thoughts, saying, like, ‘Why don’t I ask for a scholarship?’ ” Ilhomov said.
Ilhomov explained to Hart that he was working on his grades, and that he isn’t certain which college he wants to attend.
“Everybody stop for a second,” Hart said, addressing the cheering crowd. “What he just did was take advantage of the moment to ask a real question, and he asked to seize the moment and grab an opportunity. You’ve got yourself a deal.”
Ilhomov, who is in several honors classes, emigrated to the U.S. from Uzbekistan when he was in second grade. Ilhomov said he didn’t consider himself fluent until fourth grade, and learned based on his teacher’s hand gestures.
“What gave me the confidence was when my teacher, my advisor teacher, he challenged me to do it,” Ilhomov said. “He was like, ‘I don’t think he’s going to give you it,’ so he really gave me that challenge, I wanted to prove him wrong.”
Hart agreed to a partial scholarship of about $50,000.
Ilhomov said that he’s heard debates about if college is worth it, considering the debt. But to Ilhomov, it’s about character.
“I feel like coming from an immigrant family, to graduate college and get a really good job, like a lawyer, and become a good lawyer, and help others. I think that’s what a good reputation stands for,” Ilhomov said.
Boyle, who orchestrated the event, said she thinks it had a real impact on the students.
“I imagine that if any message was going to get across, it got across that day. My hope is that a lot of seeds were planted and I hope that students really heard him and that they will act on what they heard,” she said.