ALTAIR — More than 75 seniors at Rice High School in Altair participated in the second annual Credit for Life Fair on April 19.
“Since April is Youth Financial Literacy Month in Texas, as well as National Financial Literacy Month, we thought this provided us with a perfect opportunity to educate young people in Texas about money management and financial responsibility,” said Kara Matheney,Texas AgriLife Extension Service agriculture and natural resources agent in Colorado County.
The fair was sponsored by AgriLife Extension’s Row Crop Committee, Trafco Industries of Eagle Lake and First National Bank of Eagle Lake. More than 35 community volunteers assisted in the event, including financial professionals, farmers, teachers, and local business owners and employees.
Matheney said Texas now mandates youth education on basic financial literacy as a requirement for high school graduation.
At the fair, high school seniors participated in an interactive exercise designed to provide them with practical experience in managing personal finances. 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 given choices among financial essentials, such as rent and transportation, and luxuries, such as having their hair styled.
“The goal of the exercise was for them to remain within their monthly budget,” Matheney said. “Community volunteers provided students with budget-related options, money-management challenges and advice. The students learned quickly how hard it was to stay within a budget.”
Mike Lanier, Rice Consolidated Independent School District superintendent, who attended the event, said he liked its interactive format.
“This was much more realistic than what some people call ‘teaching to the test’,” Lanier said. “Students were able to participate in real-world situations and make actual choices, which has more of an impact than just reading about it in class. I think this sort of event should be held everywhere.”
Lanier also added his appreciation for the time and effort of adult community volunteers participating in the event.
“This was really good for the kids,” said Alyson Hoffman of Trafco, who volunteered and served on the fair’s development committee. “When I went to high school at Rice, there wasn’t anything like this. The event gave the students a better understanding what their parents do for them and how they will have to start making some hard financial decisions for themselves.”
Matheney said this year’s Credit for Life Fair included individual follow-ups between adult volunteers and students after the fair to discuss financial decisions made during the exercise.
“We asked the student why he or she made a particular financial decision and offered advice on how they may have approached things differently,” she said. “We also spent time talking with them about the importance of savings, investments and credit, including the need to use credit wisely.”
Matheney said AgriLife Extension is involved in many youth and adult financial literacy efforts throughout Texas, plus has a variety of free or low-cost materials and information on individual and family money management. For more information, go to: http://fcs.tamu.edu and look under the Money tab on the website’s home page.