FORT LEE, Va. – What do origami, copper and aprons have to do with financial education?
In the case of recent learning events at the Child and Youth Services School Age Center here, they served as connection points during lessons facilitated by staff members from the Army Community Service Financial Readiness Program.
Children attending the sessions made origami money flowers as a representation of an object they heard about in the book, “Meko and the Money Tree.” The FRP staff noted how the flowers served as a reminder that money does not grow on trees, but everyone has the potential to produce income, equating to an internal money tree.
More than 60 elementary-age students participated in one of four sessions arranged as part of the SAC’s Summer Fun 2021 program conducted between June and August. Each lesson included a story and child-friendly discussion about saving money, setting financial goals, creating a budget and/or earning potential.
One of the books read was “The Cookie Stand” by Craig Pinckney ReFour. The book takes readers on the journey of 10-year-old MJ who gets the idea to bake and sell cookies to earn enough money to reach his goal of buying a bike. To reinforce the message of the story, the financial counselors used show-and-tell to include wearing an apron to make it memorable for the children.
Army Community Service Officer Stephanie Parker wholeheartedly endorsed the youth learning program. Recognizing how the financial challenges facing the country also impact the military community, she supports family readiness and early financial education that reaches those in their formative years.
“By the end of 2018, Americans stood in more than $13.5 trillion dollars of debt,” Parker pointed out. “The Army Community Service Financial Readiness Program exists to help Team Lee reach and sustain healthy financial behaviors.”
It was Parker’s recommendation to give books read during the CYS lessons to each of the summer camp participants.
“By starting with the younger generation,” Parker said, “FRP (provides) the building blocks for military children to learn, know and have economic mobility of savings and planning for dreams and desires. Going forward, FRP prepares families for readiness and closing the gap of wealth.”
In addition to the book presented at the end of the program, each child received a certificate of completion to acknowledge participation. They also came away with a piggy bank.
CYS Training and Program Specialist Michelle Williams shared her perspective about the financial programing. “We love partnering with (the ACS FRP team),” she said. “They help our children learn the importance of saving, budgeting, counting money, money management, etc. through fun-filled activities geared for their age group.”
FRP staff encouraged participation from the summer campers by asking for their input. Some shared they would save money to buy castles and mansions. Others astutely keyed in on their potential to produce income by starting a business.
“The children are always engaged in the activities and stories about financial readiness,” Williams said. “(The ACS) program puts a fun spin on personal finance and more. It helps children prepare for an essential life skill, which is financial literacy.”
Collaboration has already begun for the next wave of youth-focused financial readiness programs at the School Age Center. The ACS FRP will host six sessions during the 2021-2022 academic year. The hope is for the children to take the education and resources received home to continue the financial conversation with their families.
The Financial Readiness Program is located in the Army Community Service facility at 1231 Mahone Avenue. To schedule financial readiness counseling or briefs, call 804-765-3800. To view the list of routine classes provided by the office, visit lee.armymwr.com.