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Program teaches young people about financial management|
By Vera Klinkowsky
| Forty students arrived at Penn State McKeesport with the responsibility of running a $1 million company.|
These students were not 20-somethings who beat the Internet bust, but high school students who were eager to learn about finance and could use that knowledge in the future to run a successful company.
The Continuing Education Financial Literacy Program was held at the campus during the summer for African-American high school students from southwestern Pennsylvania who had demonstrated service in their community and church.
This program is something needed particularly for African-American youth to learn how to manage financial resources, Penn State McKeesport Campus Executive Officer Dr. Curtiss Porter said. This program can be a model that can take place in the community.
Thanks to an $80,000 grant from Heinz Endowments, students were able to learn about finance, experience college life and make new friends.
With the collaboration of Howard Slaughter, director of the Fannie Mae Pittsburgh Partnership Office, and Dr. Wilma Barnett Smith, program director, Penn State Continuing Education was awarded the grant.
To participate in the program, students obtained sponsorship from their church, submitted a 100-word essay describing how financial knowledge would benefit them and secured a letter of recommendation from a school or church official.
Through interactive computer exercises, simulations, case studies and small group sessions, students learned how financial issues affect them and how they apply to current events in the financial world. Students also were inspired to understand the world of finance through discussions by leaders in the field.
The business professionals who were eager to teach the students about finance were: Slaughter; Ralph Papa, president of Citizens Bank Western Region; Allan Wampler, president of Synergy; Laverne M. Carter, president of the Emprise Group in St. Louis, Mo.; and Stanley Richardson of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
While absorbing information about finance in various forums, students were challenged to plan and manage a $1 million company. Each student wrote a business plan that stated the companys purpose, how the company received its money, the products it sells, how it would earn profit and whether the profit would be reinvested in the company.
The students took a break from the classroom environment by attending a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game and movie. They also put on a talent show.
While students left the McKeesport campus in August, the learning experience continued. They left with responsibility for a $300 bank account at Citizens Bank. Each students church donated $100, while Heinz Endowments contributed $200. Students were asked to apply skills gained from the program to their decisions on how the money would be used. Then in February and May, students met with Barnett Smith to talk about how they managed their account.
The three-part financial literacy program was a great learning experience for all involved, Barnett Smith said.
The program far exceeded my expectations, she said. The students were great and very receptive to the program, and as we began to move with the program, the Penn State staff was very cooperative and helped to facilitate the goals I intended for the program.
Most important, Barnett Smith said, students enjoyed the educational program during their summer break.
The evaluations showed that they rated the program as excellent, the instruction as very informative, the program staff as very friendly and supportive and the curriculum as being very useful in the future, she said.
Penn State McKeesport Continuing Education Area Representative Rebecca Simpson added, I know the students want to come back again for the program.
As a professional who helps low-, moderate- and middle-income families obtain loans for homes, Slaughter said African-American youths as future homeowners need to understand finance and its management.
This group of students will be prospective homeowners in the next 10 years, Slaughter said. It is very important when financing homes that they manage their income and credit properly. Otherwise, they will be limited in the opportunity to be a homeowner.
Carmen Anderson, program officer for Heinz Endowments Children, Youth and Families Program, said the foundation was enthusiastic about funding the program, recognizing that a serious financial illiteracy problem exists among many high-school age populations. A study by the National Council on Economic Education reported half of all adults struggle with basic economic concepts, Anderson said. Most of what young people know about finances is learned from their family experiences.
After reviewing how well the program has met its goals, Heinz Endowments boards of directors will determine this spring whether the foundation will sponsor the program this summer.
An outreach program of Penn State McKeesport Continuing Education