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Entire School Gets Savings Accounts (North Carolina)
By Josh Green
May 12, 2009

Ask a kindergartener about the recession, about credit card interest or the FDIC and you'll probably get a blank stare or a shrug.

But ask Burton Geo-World Magnet School kindergartener Tyree Brown about saving a bit and he's already a pintsized penny pincher in a way.

"You can spend it on shirts or cars or when you go to college," he said.

Tyree is one of 329 students at Burton Elementary who all have savings now. The school worked with Mechanics & Farmers Bank and North Carolina Central University to start those "High Expectations Savings Accounts," as the school's banking club calls it. The State Treasurer's Fiscal Literacy Foundation gave the money to help start the program.

"I think with our recession now - it's important for them to understand how to make their money work for them," said Principal Tekeisha Ford. "Every student will start a savings account with $1 and they can deposit as little as one cent up to the amount they choose to bring in."

And those accounts will draw interest just like a regular savings account. Some, like fourth-grader Jiana Brown, have been thinking what "fiscal responsibility means."

"I'll probably be more mature with it and buy things I really need instead of things I want," she said. "Like if I had old shoes and I needed some new ones - I might buy some new shoes or a dress or something like that."

So the students have already set goals.

"Some of them have said 'when I get 16, I want to buy a car or I want to buy my prom dress when I go to high school," Ford said.

It's a different lesson for each age group.

"We start at kindergarten with the basic understanding of money - going up to our fifth-graders where we talk about interest and loans and finance fees and the different aspects of banking," Ford explained. "They're coming in and saying 'oh - I watched the news and they were talking about the banks and interest. That's what we talked about in our lesson. So they're making real-life connections with what they're seeing in the world."

For fourth-grader Destiny Wallace, who has only saved money in a little pouch every once in a while, it's an important lesson.

"Instead of your parents buying you stuff you can have your own money and you can share some and the rest you can save for later," she said.

Lenora Thorpe, who is retired from Mechanics & Farmers Bank and is helping coordinate the program, said Burton Elementary is the first school in the district that's doing this program with them. But she, too, saved in a program like this when she was in school

"Saving nickels and dimes and pennies - I probably had about $25," she said. "But it taught me to save. It taught me that I don't spend every dime that I get."

"What I could buy with a nickel or dime or quarter is nothing compared to what I could buy with $25."

(c) 2009 (North Carolina)

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