The importance of saving and budgeting took precedence as the Boys and Girls Club of South Valley learned about managing their money.
The year-long pursuit in the Financial Literacy Program (FLiP) paid off for youth and parents, culminating in a celebration in late April to mark their accomplishments.
"We saw a major need in the community for financial awareness among the lower socioeconomic crowd," said David Brooks, FLiP manager.
The program started in May of last year as a collaboration between the club, Zions Bank, AAA, GE Capital and American Express. According to Brooks, the program served about 350 kids and parents in Midvale, Murray, West Jordan and Kearns.
FLiP provided specific courses dealing with investing, planning and saving for college among other lessons that aimed to impact financial decisions.
"The parents had tons of questions about investing in their children's secondary education," Brooks said. "They wanted more information and wanted to be involved."
Numbers and dollar signs can be messy, but the program sought a blend of learning and living where those involved could interact as well as absorb.
"It's very hands-on, and we taught them to learn in a fun way," Brooks said.
The club hosted parent nights, field trips, barbecues and activities filled with educational games. In one activity, the kids earned fake dollars to spend at an auction.
The youth organized a small business called Snack Shack with $100 in start-up capital. They decided what they wanted to sell and helped set the prices.
"They sold smoothies, mango with chili, granola bars, all-natural fruit snacks," Brooks said. "They had a cash register."
Their customers included parents, attendees of events they went to, and each other, of course. They raised more than $1,000. The profit was split in thirds, going to the youth, the club and the community.
Brooks said that although it was minor accounting, the kids will walk away with valuable insights.
"It's something they will always retain," he said.
He hopes the knowledge the youth gained can spark a chain reaction.
"We're making a small impact now, but in the long run, the youth will teach their parents," he said.
April was Financial Awareness Month, and at the celebration, the club awarded nine youth with certificates and gift cards. Brooks said these kids demonstrated outstanding enthusiasm and aptitude for learning in FLiP.
The club also turned the gym into a carnival ground with stations that featured games such as the Price is Right. The festivity incorporated financial awareness, allowing kids to earn prizes while reinforcing their knowledge. Dr. Roderic Land, an assistant professor from the University of Utah, was a guest speaker.
Brooks said the parents and youth were satisfied with the program. He wants the kids to understand how much better their lives would be free of financial burdens.
"I'd just like to stress the importance of being financially apt because I feel that's the biggest issue here in our society," he said. "We should make it better for the youth."
David Montoya, who was an eighth-grader from Midvale Middle School, gained knowledge to help him prepare for his future.
"We learned about scholarships and grants and what are the best places to get those," he said. "I've already started planning out for college."
He also did research into what career would afford him the lifestyle he wants to live.
Although Montoya is too young to incur credit card debts, he's not too young to start saving, and FLiP shed light on the importance of making smart financial decisions.
"I would get $50 a month and would have none of it a week later," Montoya said. "Now I'm putting money into a savings account."
He enjoyed taking a tour of Zions Bank, where the kids received $25 to open a savings account upon completion of a required form.
Montoya talked to other kids who would want to participated in a similar financial program.
"It's a great program, and it should be taught at a lot of places, not just here," he said. "It's worth expanding."
Bob Dunn, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of South Valley, appreciates the level of enthusiasm everyone showed.
"It's real-life learning," he said. "We've done investment, open up savings accounts, done business."
He explained how necessary this program was to the youth today.
"What we've found in testing students was that they didn't have any knowledge in financial literacy," Dunn said. "So the test scores on financial literacy were extremely low and they keep dropping every year."
Dunn also stressed the importance of keeping good records.
"The kids need to know that if they have bad credit, they can get turned down from a job," he said.
He hopes the children will retain the useful information.
"It's really just a thing our kids needed to learn," he said. "This is something they're going to use their whole lives."