Hey there! It’s Marlee – checking in from Ferris State University – Grand Rapids and Project NorthStar. As a November start VISTA, last month I finally reached the halfway point of my service year; at that time, my focus shifted from planning and organizing several Get Real! financial literacy and budgeting activities, to planning programming for the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan’s seven week Summer Learning Academy (SLA), hosted at Ferris State University, to help stop summer learning loss.
This shift in priorities has refreshed my motivation and given me a chance to apply the skills I’ve gained during my time as a VISTA to a completely new task. It’s also given me a chance to work with fresh faces, as I had not had a chance to work with much of the Hispanic Center staff – that was Alyson’s territory! But, now it’s my turn, and I’m having a blast.
My focus for SLA this year has been to implement a financial literacy portion into the programming. Earlier in the year, I re-vamped the NEFE High School Financial Planning Program PowerPoint Series to make it more accessible to high school students, as previously it was extremely long, convoluted, and hard to understand. The SLA staff and I will be presenting my version of the PowerPoint Series to the students so they can learn about things like money management, borrowing money, interest, predatory lending, insurance, and student loans – all things that were previously missing from the curriculum.
In addition, this year I am encouraging the students to start saving some of the money they earn from the work experience portion of SLA for college. This project, called the Summer Savings Plan, is based on research conducted in 2010 that states high school students are 6x more likely to continue their education even if they have just $50 saved specifically for college. Students are encouraged to open a savings account with a local bank, or through www.misaves.com, and save 20-40% of their SLA earnings for college related expenses. As many of these students will return to the program for the rest of their high school career, we will be able to track how much they save and hopefully send them to college with enough money to pay for at least a years worth of textbooks!
Things are winding down for the year, and as November comes quickly I can honestly say that being a VISTA was the best choice I could’ve made this year. Big thanks to Maggie, Shalyn, Jake, and the VISTA program for being great and providing me with all the tools and room to grow! I haven’t yet decided what’s next, but I’m sure I’ve got a little time left to figure it out. ‘Til next time, folks!
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!