The United Way of the Wabash Valley’s Financial Management Council is awarding $67,270 in funding to the Vigo County School Corporation for financial skills literacy training for teenagers. The Council promotes financial coaching and income management and believes improving financial management skills is an important step in breaking the cycle of poverty and achieving United Way’s bold goal of moving 10,000 families out of financial struggles and into stability.
Financial skills training for teenagers is timely and relevant because many students often begin working and collecting their first paychecks in high school. As teens prepare for post-secondary education or enter the workforce, they need a solid foundation of financial management skills. Because of this, the Financial Management Council issued a grant opportunity earlier this year seeking applicant organizations to expand financial literacy education for students in grades 9-12. Community volunteers evaluated multiple applications and selected the Vigo County School Corporation’s proposal to implement the Junior Achievement Finance Park capstone curriculum for personal financial planning and career exploration.
With the $67,000 in grant funding, VCSC will partner with Junior Achievement of Great St. Louis to implement a teacher-led classroom curriculum that culminates with a visit to JA Finance Park, a realistic on-site facility, where students put into practice what they’ve learned by developing a personal budget. The program is designed to reach students at their own level so that they can build a foundation for making intelligent lifelong financial decisions, including those related to income, expenses, savings, and credit. The United Way funding will allow VCSC to reach 300 students in the 2022-2023 school year. VCSC will initially offer the program to JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) students in the Wabash Valley and alternative high school students including Booker T. Washington and Vigo Virtual Success Academy but will expand to offer the programming to more students and other school corporations in future years.
Doug Dillion, Director of Career/Technical Education for the Vigo County School Corporation said, “With this grant award, the United Way of the Wabash Valley is making an investment in financial planning education and career exploration for the Wabash Valley youth. The Vigo County School Corporation and Junior Achievement are excited about providing this new opportunity to our youth and helping equip students with the tools needed to make good fiscal and career decisions as they transition into adulthood.”
The JA Finance Park program will be managed by a Junior Achievement program specialist that will be located here in the Wabash Valley but will have support from Junior Achievement of Greater St. Louis. In the program, High School students spend multiple days learning about how education and career choices will impact their quality of life. This includes saving and investing, debit and credit, and establishing a financial plan. Students then test what they have learned in a life-like simulation. They choose a career, receive a persona, earn a paycheck, maybe have a family, set a monthly budget, shop according to the budget, and pay bills. At the end of the simulation, they will have financial skills that will help them make decisions to live free of financial struggles.
“We know that developing financial literacy skills in our teens is just one key step in overcoming our community’s cycle of generational poverty and reducing the number of struggling working households in our future. This is great community-strengthening work that starts with our kids. We are pleased to help support the long partnership between Vigo County Schools and Junior Achievement and to bring the JA Finance Park to the community,” stated Richard Payonk, the Executive Director for United Way of the Wabash Valley.
Community members interested in getting more involved in the work of United Way’s Financial Management Impact Council can contact Mark Johnson at 812-235-6287 or [email protected].