The News Journal (Delaware)
March 2, 2010
Ten-year-old Megan Francia does not have a savings account, but she believes it is a good idea.
"When you get older and go to college, you can have money," said Megan, a fourth-grader at Fairview Elementary School in Dover. "When you get really older, you can buy a house and a car."
Megan could soon put money aside for those big dreams. Her school was selected to be the first in a partnership between the state treasurer's office and TD Bank designed to teach financial literacy to every student in the state. The first lesson at Fairview Elementary on Monday featured "goodie bags" that included certificates good for $10 toward Young Savers accounts at the bank.
Sixteen bank employees, who had undergone eight hours of financial literacy training, simultaneously swept into all 16 of the school's regular classrooms, green and purple balloons in hand. The carefully choreographed maneuver was described as a "takeover" of the school, something that will be repeated up and down the state as these and other instructors deliver their money message.
"The idea about the balloons is to excite the kids. They want to see what it's all about," said Nicholas Adams, Delaware's deputy state treasurer.
"The treasurer's office puts the weight of its office behind the program," he said. "It opens the doors to schools."
State Treasurer Velda Jones-Potter said the idea for the partnership was hatched in her office seven months ago.
"The idea behind it is to create an awareness in young children about the need to understand the basics of how you manage money," she said. "Take the mystery out of it."
The initiative plugs into TD Bank's WOW!Zone, a free, interactive financial literacy program designed to help children in all grade levels develop financial skills in school and online. Instructors in the program present teacher-written lesson plans on topics ranging from an introduction to saving to understanding lines of credit.
Although the Delaware program is the only one with a state partnership, financial literacy programs are being run out of the bank's branches from Maine to Florida, reaching 100,000 children last year, said Michael Carbone, TD Bank's regional president. In one form or another, the program has been around for 20 years, and there is a great need for it, he added.
"Kids, when they come out of high school, they're not as prepared from a financial-literacy standpoint as they need to be, something as simple as handling a checking account," he said. "I see this as sort of preventative medicine. Look at the amount of bankruptcies that we have every year in this country."
Julie Fitzsimmons, who works in business development at the bank's regional office in Pike Creek, handed out samples of checks to fourth-graders as she prepared to teach them how to fill them out.
"You can pretend you have millions of dollars in the bank," she told them.
Classroom teacher Rhonda Turner stood by and watched the 45-minute financial lesson.
"I think it's great, because it teaches children the value of a dollar," she said. "It's great to show them what they need to do to prepare for the future."
Principal Marcia Harrison agreed.
"All children at this age need to learn how to save," she said. "This is when it starts. And it certainly ties in with their math."
The WOW!Zone lesson plans, written to meet the standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, will be taught to all grades by the bank's employees, but the initiative will begin with elementary schools, Jones-Potter said.
Bank spokeswoman Rebecca Acevedo said the order in which instructors visit schools will be up to the school districts to decide.
"We plan to reach all the schools," she said.
Contact Edward L. Kenney at 324-2891 or email@example.com