Clarion Ledger (Mississippi)
By: Elizabeth Crisp
August 14, 2011
Children in three of Jackson's pre-kindergarten programs will have an opportunity to enroll this fall in an initiative that aims to get families to save money for college.
Virden, Westside and Jones Early Childhood Development Centers have been selected as pilot programs to gather data on the success of savings account programs for children.
Louis Armstrong, deputy director of Human and Cultural Services for the city, said organizers hope to attract 167 youths.
"We believe this will have a life-changing impact, as well as a positive impact on our communities," he said.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is providing $50 deposits to each savings account to start the program, Armstrong said. The money can only be used for education - college, vocational training or other workforce skills development programs after high school.
The program creates a reserve for students who may not otherwise be able to afford college.
Armstrong said the program has been received favorably by parents. It begins Sept. 1.
"We've been going through the educating process," he said.
Head Start programs in Leland and Greenville also have been selected as pilot sites.
La June Montgomery Tabron, chief operating officer and treasurer of the Kellogg Foundation, said savings accounts provide an economic opportunity for financially precarious families.
"Children's savings accounts provide vulnerable children with the possibility of a future that is economically secure," she said. "(It) is a promising approach to building economic security."
Armstrong said the potential of the program depends on parents. Details are still being worked out, but organizers have discussed the possibility of offering some sort of deposit match program.
"That would be an incentive for parents to make the deposits," he said.
Organizers say just knowing the money is there also could serve as a motivator for students to do better in school and aim for college.
"The child has now established a savings account, and preliminary information indicates that improves academic performance," Armstrong said.
The Corporation for Enterprise Development, which receives funding from the Kellogg Foundation, selected the agencies to participate. The Mississippi Community Financial Access Coalition will provide financial training, and Delta State University's Department of Community Economic Development will administer the program.
The accounts will be held at the Hope Credit Union.
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