Fourth grade students at Glen Oaks Park Elementary School and their parents will soon learn the value of using even small savings to invest in tomorrow’s goals. These 66 Baton Rouge students are the in the inaugural class of Young Investors Children Savings Account Pilot Project class of LABEST.
“As I crossed the threshold, I overheard a suited man talking to some students clad in their collared uniform shirts and holding brightly colored plastic piggy banks. He said, ‘Feed the pig and we’ll put interest on that…free money! Now, that’s what I’m talking about!’,” said Carmen Green, a policy fellow with the Louisiana Budget Project.
The Children Savings Account is an initiative of The Middleburg Institute in collaboration with LABEST, a statewide coalition of organizations seeking to influence public polices and improve the lives of low wealth communities over a lifetime. TMI established the Young Investors elementary school savings project with support and research provided by Howard University Center on Race & Wealth, Washington University in St Louis, CFED and the Ford Foundation Building Economic Security over a Lifetime Initiative (BESOL). The Project teaches students the importance of savings and how to develop habits of making money, saving money, and spending wisely.
Young Investors will raise money to deposit into the accounts. In addition to the personal deposits that students and their parents can make, the Young Investors will try their hand at entrepreneurship. They will engage in monthly fundraising activities for regular deposits so they can witness their accounts grow.
The Young Investor’s program is partnering with Rhonda Jefferson and Lorraine Oubre, owners of Grandma Tootsie’s Creole Pralines. They plan to make and assist in selling pralines to raise money. In house, Young Investors may be “hired” as tellers in the school bank, and oversee daily accounting.
The program features financial literacy coaches, professionals, and advisors including those from Edward Jones, Junior Achievement, and local banks who are available to students and parents during monthly learning opportunities.
Alarian Brown, 10, already has ideas on money management. “With all the money I get, I want to save more,” she said. “I’ll keep it in the bank and when it comes to stuff I need, I’ll get it out.”
Alarian, who has plans to be an orthodontist, is looking forward to the fundraising aspects of the program, including selling lemonade and pralines.
That “free money” did not grow on some special cash tree. Financial advocacy group LABEST, The Middleburg Institute, and Gulf Coast Bank partnered to set the students up with a real savings account; each with $40 seed money. State Rep. Rick Edmonds ‘pledged a donation to the Young Investors program increasing the seed money for each enrolled student.
As a member of the legislative education committee, Edmonds is well aware of the disinvestment in education and equality in the state and took his commitment to another level, said James. He plans to bring the students to the capital for a Young Investors Day this spring. This will give them exposure to state government.
“As children and parents learn more about money management, it is our hope that this will influence change in behaviors as it relates to investing,” said Joyce James, LABEST state director. “Families may create workable budgets and start an emergency fund. We are able to say we changed behavior and increased the financial future for our children.”
Green explained that these students will be able to grow into young adulthood with a little investment which they can use in high school or college for the ever-increasing tuition and dissipating scholarship opportunities. “Students will start to make the connection between production, cash and government, through exposure to entrepreneurs and local representatives,” she said.
“I cannot determine the long-term effect on the city of Baton Rouge or on the lives of the students, but I see the potential. It feels like the Black community is brushing off the dust and moving forward,” Green said.