Exploring the World of Financial Literacy
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By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
APRIL 11, 2019 – On Wednesday morning, Anthony Levine – a Reynolds graduate who now plays for the Baltimore Ravens – offered students a little financial advice.
“It’s not smart to spend something you don’t have,” Levine said. “Don’t go out and live beyond your means.”
Levine was speaking to more than 800 high school students from nine Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools.
The students had gathered in the sanctuary at Union Baptist Church on Trade Street for the dfree Young Money Financial Literacy Workshop, a workshop that the dfree Global Foundation presents to high school students across the country.
Before the workshop began, Raphael Green-Hughes, an assistant principal at North Forsyth, said:
“It is my hope that students are inspired by the information they receive and understand the principles of saving and investing. This opportunity could help to ignite their interest in their ability and potential to obtain wealth through hard work and wise decision-making and become entrepreneurs if it is their desire.”
Other speakers included rapper Kayo Bracey, who is based in Greensboro; Keith L. Brown, a traveling speaker who goes by the nickname “Mr. I’m Possible,” and dfree staff members. By the time the morning was done, they had covered such topics as the importance of not getting carried away with that first credit card, setting priorities, and planning and saving for the future.
All the information was delivered in a high-energy environment. Music played throughout the workshop, and entertaining diversions included a dance-off with students selected from the audience.
The students voted on the winner by clapping and calling out their support. It was hard to call the winner with several of the students receiving enthusiastic responses. In the end, North Forsyth student Tobias Johnson was named the winner. He received $40. Other participants included Makayla Wright of Carver, and Jacob Macy of Glenn.
Earlier, while activity buses were arriving and students were streaming into the sanctuary, participants talked about their goals for the workshop.
Tamika Stembridge, who is the executive director of dfree, and Nia Baskerville, who is the event coordinator for dfree, are based in Somerset, N.J. and travel the country educating young people about financial literacy.
“We want to plant a seed with the audience,” Baskerville said.
“Ideally, young people will start to think differently about how they spend money,” Stembridge said.
It’s important to learn to connect your goals for the future to your money decisions today, they said. For instance, instead of spending more money than you need to on clothes, think about saving some of that money for the future.
It’s also important to develop marketable skills along the way, Baskerville said.
Brown, who is based in Atlanta, said, “I hope that young people experience financial literacy and college and career readiness so they can progress to be global citizens.”
Fran Oates, a member of Union Baptist board who is a professor of education at Winston-Salem State University, said, “Being literate in finances is hugely important.”
She thinks it’s important to learn all you can about all aspects of the financial world and it’s good to start teaching young people early.
“One of the things we don’t talk about early enough with our children is finances,” Oates said.
The connection with the school system was made through community leader Cheryl Harry, who worked with people within the school system. Along with Green-Hughes, the group also included Karen Archie, an assistant principal at Reynolds, Rebecca McKnight, the school system’s program manager for social studies; Carol Montague-Davis, the principal at Carver; and Shirley Bynum, a co-director of the school system’s CTE (Career Technical Education) program.
Students at the workshop included ones taking such classes as Civics and Economics, Personal Finance, and Business Marketing, and participating in such programs as OCS (Occupational Course of Study) and JROTC. Melissa Bruce, an interpreter at Reynolds, was on hand to sign for students who needed it.
As she was coming in, Gregoria Arreola, who is a senior at Glenn, said that she hoped the workshop would help give her insight into the financial responsibilities she will face as an adult.
Taije Spivey, who is a junior at Reynolds, said she was looking for information that would help her save money for college.
It’s important to be prepared for that transition to college, people at the conference said.
Green-Hughes said that, when she went off to college, she soon learned one of the hazards of college life – credit card companies eager to give you a credit card to establish you as a customer. She got a little carried away with that first card, she said, and, thanks to help from her parents, got back on the right path.
“I learned quickly,” she said.
When Levine spoke after the workshop began, he noted that he had made a similar misstep.
“I maxed out a couple of credit cards when I was in college,” he said.
But he soon learned the importance of financial responsibility.
“It all comes down to priorities,” he told the students.
And made sure you keep good people around you, he added.
When Brown spoke, he stressed not only financial literacy but also the importance of a positive attitude about yourself.
“Never let anybody’s negative opinion of you become your negative opinion of yourself,” he said.
After the workshop was over, Head said, “We all agreed it was not what we had thought it would be like, but we were pleasantly surprised, encouraged and engaged!”
“Awesome event! Informative and interesting!”
After the event, Green-Hughes checked in with students and staff. The overall feedback was positive.
“Students reported that they had a great time,” she said. “One student noted that they appreciated the information about saving money instead of purchasing frivolous items, and another student said they liked the combination of information and entertainment.”
In a note to Malashai Woodbury, the chair of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education, Archie described the workshop as an “awesome experience” for the students.
Allegacy Federal Credit Union helped with the costs of providing activity buses.
The nine Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools participating in the workshop were:
Paisley IB Magnet
John F. Kennedy High
Atkins Academic & Technology High
North Forsyth High
East Forsyth High