The kids in a Fair Haven after-school program each get five bucks each time they attend the once-a-week after-school life skills enrichment class, and a $25 bonus if they achieve perfect attendance. If they save it all, they’ll have about $250 in the bank at the end of the year.
One of their predecessors, who learned the habits of saving and financial literacy back in 2011 when the program began, has saved $7,000 already and just bought his first car.
That success story emerged from a press conference convened in the library of the Fair Haven School on Grand Avenue Thursday afternoon.
There officials, kids, and David Greco and Danny Diaz, the founders of ARTE Inc.and creators of SLATE—stands for Socialization & Learning Adventures, Through Education—gathered to recognize a a $15,000 grant for the program from Comcast.
The program reaches about 25 kids at the Fair Haven School and 25 at the Columbus Family Academy nearby on Grand Avenue at Blatchley with a once a week two-hour fun-oriented session about very serious stuff.
Like how to make a budget, fill out a job application, aspire to college, dress for an interview, or cook for yourself—last week they made cupcakes, said Greco, himself the baker-in-chief.
The Comcast grant and support also from Wells Fargo Bank have enabled the program in effect to double in size and spread to two schools.
While there are a lot of life-skills programs at schools around the city, this one is entirely privately supported. It has an active travel program — bus trips to colleges, real life visiting restaurants where the kids, having prepared, do actual ordering from a menu, calculate a tip for the waiter, and do all the things they do not do when going to the usual fast food joints.
The kids are in seventh and eighth grades. That’s a good age to begin to mold the kids and really influence them with their aspirations and teach financial and human relations skills for a lifetime, said Greco, who comes from a business background and volunteers his time and expertise each session with the kids.
Because of that background, the program emphasizes financial literacy in the program and the repetition of two mantras: “Save your money.” And even if you don’t want to go to college and choose, for example, to be a mechanic, don’t work for someone else. Own your own garage instead.
The program is modeled after ASPIRA, a New York-based program that raises awareness of the culture and the goals of Puerto Rican kids, Greco added.
Each kid and his or her family must sign a contract to participate. The contract requires maintaining a B-minus average. It requires the parents to sit down and a share a meal with their kids at least once a week.
“Every time I do [my school] work, I am thinking of SLATE,” Austin said. He also said he likes the budgeting games.
One, which Greco recently led, involved giving each kid $3,700 in a month’s worth of play money. The went around a room and deposited it required amounts in pots labeled “Rent,” “Fuel,” and so forth.
The expenses are deliberately designed to exceed the income so when the moolah runs out, the kids then have a discussion about having nothing left for the $200 sneakers. Greco urges them to consider getting a cheaper pair.
Carmen said the most interesting and unexpected learning for her was the session when each kid had to confess a negative thought and the others in the group, heard, listened, and encouraged. She had never experienced that before.
Greco said that one of the early graduates — the young man who, though only an eleventh grader, already has saved $7,000 — recently emailed him. The young man said that although he had not yet quite gotten his driver’s license, he is so thrilled to be driving his new car, a Mini Cooper, he just moves it for now up and down his driveway.
In remarks Thursday, Comcast Vice President of Public Relations and Community Investment Kristen Roberts said of that kid, “He may not be going places in his driveway, but he is going places [in his life].”