By Jody Philips, Director of Individual and Foundation Giving, Young Americans Center for Financial Education
“The number one problem in today’s generation and economy is a lack of financial literacy.” – Alan Greenspan
Last summer, the Send-a-School project for Young AmeriTowne (a program of Young Americans Center for Financial Education) received a DU Grand Challenges $1,000 A Community Table award. In October, the A Community Table award sent 77 low-income 5th graders to Young AmeriTowne, a hands-on, real-life kid-sized town where excited students run their own free enterprise economy of 9-16 shops and their own government for a day.
For weeks before their day in Young AmeriTowne, students practice active learning in financial literacy: everything from banking and budgeting to applying for a job and preparing a business plan for the shop they will run with a team of classmates. They hold primary and general elections to select their own mayor and judge, and enact laws that will be enforced by their own police force–employees of Towne Hall.
On their big day in Young AmeriTowne, students (all from a single school) become citizens, working a career-for-a-day, earning a paycheck, managing their own bank account and making purchases with a personal “live” debit card.
Schools pay a fee ($20 per student) to partly offset program costs ($33 per students). The Send-a-School project provides scholarships, averaging $13 per student, removing barriers so that students attending schools in low-income neighborhoods can participate. This grant provided scholarships to 77 students, who learned how to spend, save, share and invest wisely, but the impact reached their families as well. Angela’s cousin was one of the students participating on a Send-a-School scholarship this fall. Here’s her story.
Angela is 19 and living on the financial edge in a low-income area of Aurora, Colorado. Rents are rising and she works many hours at part-time jobs to help her struggling family. She wishes she had had the chance to go to Young AmeriTowne, like her 5th grade cousin Camila who lives just blocks away and goes to the same at-risk elementary school that Angela attended.
Today ten-year-old Camila is running Young AmeriTowne with her classmates, the first in their school to get to go to Young AmeriTowne, thanks to Send-a-School scholarships. Angela was so excited when Camilla shared some of the lessons she was learning at school, about banking and her job (Camilla is good at math and landed her first choice job as an accountant), Angela asked to volunteer with her cousin’s class. Angela and the other volunteers, parents of the Young AmeriTowne citizens, are gaining financial literacy as they help the student business teams. Spanish language volunteer guides make sure every parent-volunteer can contribute fully to the student experience.
Imagine if Angela had gone to Young AmeriTowne in 5th grade. She’d already have practice depositing her paycheck in the bank. She’d know about budgets, saving and investing. She might even be on a career track or going to school to get her dream job, inspired by her Young AmeriTowne career-for-a-day.