AgriLife Extension helping Texas youth get fiscally fit

Seniors at Rice High School in Altair participate in the school's first-ever Credit for Life Fair. The fair, held in April, designated as Texas Youth Financial Literacy Month, introduced students to "real-life" money management situations. Here students stop at the Credit Counseling Center to get advice from adult volunteers on how to manage their personal finances and stay within the monthly budget established for them as part of the day's interactive financial exercise. (Photo courtesy of Rice Consolidated ISD)

COLLEGE STATION — In today’s economic environment it is more important than ever that young people are financially literate before they leave home for college or become self-supporting, said Texas AgriLife Extension Service experts.

“Since April was Youth Financial Literacy Month in Texas as well as National Financial Literacy Month, this provided us with a perfect opportunity to focus on educating young people in Texas about basic money management and financial responsibility through AgriLife Extension programs and activities,” said Nancy Granovsky, AgriLife Extension specialist in family economics.

Granovsky said Texas is ahead of most states in youth financial education as there is a mandate that students receive instruction on basic financial literacy as a graduation requirement.

“As an agency of the Texas A&M University System, AgriLife Extension is involved in a wide variety of educational outreach efforts to improve the lives of Texans, including helping the state’s young people become better prepared to handle real-life financial issues and challenges,” she said. “The agency conducts programs related to financial literacy – both to young people and adults throughout the year and throughout the state — and supporting Texas Youth Financial Literacy Month is a part of our efforts.”

Among the youth financial literacy activities in which AgriLife Extension participated during National Financial Literacy Month was the Credit for Life Fair presented at the Rice High School Gymnasium in Altair.

At the fair, 70 seniors from the school participated in this first-ever event in Colorado County, designed to provide them with practical experience in managing personal finances. Thirty-five volunteers from AgriLife Extension, the school, local businesses and the community helped at the fair, presenting students with budget-related options, money management challenges and advice.

Each student was given a career and monthly salary, as well as a credit score based on how well they performed on a financial pre-test. They were then provided choices relating to financial essentials such as rent and transportation, as well as “luxuries” such as having their hair styled. The goal of the exercise was for them to remain within their monthly budget.

“The students learned quickly how hard it was to stay within a budget. They were in awe of the expenses associated with real-life living, how quickly things added up, and how easy it was to exceed their budget,” said Kara Matheney, AgriLife Extension 4-H and youth development agent in Colorado County. “They also learned some careers were not as glamorous as they thought and didn’t pay as well as they expected.”

“The event was great,” said Rice Consolidated Independent School District superintendent Mike Lanier. “Giving the students a chance to see real-world situations and to interact and make choices was much better than reading about it from a textbook or off a blackboard. I was also impressed with how smart many of the kids were in the choices they made.”

Lesley Carey of Trafco Industries in Eagle Lake served as the committee chairperson for the event and added that, “At the fair, the kids got a better understanding of how things really are, and how important it is to establish and maintain good credit.”

In Tarrant County, AgriLife Extension partnered with the Tarrant County Credit Union to present a financial literacy class designed to help young people to become more financially prepared for college.

The class, held at the AgriLife Extension office in Tarrant County, was attended by young people from eighth grade through high school throughout the community, including several from the YMCA. It focused on the importance of keeping up with financial aid, the cost of living on campus versus off, the need for an emergency credit card and college spending plan, as well as other practical aspects of college-related money management.

“The Tarrant County Credit Union and AgriLife Extension present this class as a means to help young people become more financially savvy in understanding the costs associated with college,” said Marian Ross, AgriLife Extension family and consumer sciences agent in Tarrant County.

Ross added that AgriLife Extension and the credit union have joined forces for several years to present this class and that it has become a mainstay of the agency’s ongoing youth financial literacy efforts in that county.

In Lynn County, Amy Baugh, AgriLife Extension family and consumer sciences agent, gave two financial literacy instruction presentations in April to eighth-graders at Tahoka Middle School as part of the school’s Money Matters elective course.

“I worked with their teacher to enhance their financial literacy education by providing National Endowment for Financial Education materials and helping instruct the kids on practical application of the money management concepts they were being taught in the class,” Baugh said.

She said her instruction included teaching the students about making and maintaining a budget, check writing, understanding paycheck deductions and taxes, and participating with them in interactive financial management games and activities.

In Denton County, all programs conducted in April by AgriLife Extension family and consumer sciences agent Maggie Jover contained a “Living Better with Less” financial literacy segment. This segment, developed by Jover, contains information on developing a spending plan, tracking expenses, and reducing expenditures in three major areas — food, housing, and transportation. It includes a presentation and handouts describing ways to live better on less, plus incorporates “hands on” activities such as determining unit prices of grocery items and comparing the taste of selected national brand-name products to their store-brand counterparts.

In April, programs using Better Living with Less were presented to hundreds of people in Denton County, including 40 students at Texas Woman’s University students and 55 students at the University of North Texas. Jover also used the month’s financial literacy theme to recruit volunteers for the new “Dollar$ and Sen$e” volunteer program she co-developed with Ross for training volunteers to teach financial literacy to others in their community. In Denton County, where volunteers will target low income families, older adults and youth, Jover recruited 12 volunteers during April.

“The agency is having a positive impact on youth financial literacy through the programs and activities it delivers through its family and consumer science agents and staff, 4-H and youth development agents and staff, and others,” Granovsky said. “But we are especially happy to help support such efforts during April, especially as that has been ‘officially’ designated National Financial Literacy Month.”

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Editors: For more information on national and state financial literacy proclamations for April, go to:

Presidential Proclamation: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/03/31/presidential-proclamation-national-financial-literacy-month

Governor Perry’s Proclamation: http://www.tcuf.coop/uploads/proclamation_-_ntl_financial_literacy_month-2011.pdf

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