Library program aims to help teens finance their futures

Terry Oparka/Troy Times (Michigan)
28 August 2013

Save it or spend it? A new program that aims to help teens learn to manage money will roll out next month.

This past winter, the Troy Public Library was awarded a $65,175 grant from the Financial Industry Regulatory Investor Education Foundation and the American Library Association as part of the Smart Investing @Your Library program. The Troy library was one of 14 across the country to win the competitive grant.

Troy Library Director Cathy Russ explained that 34 libraries across the country applied for the grants, which ranged from $40, 000 to $100, 000.

The sessions will start next month, continue through June and feature financial basics including budgets, banking, how to afford college and skills that college students will need to manage finances while attending school and after graduation. Sessions also will include information about investing and how to plan for retirement.

Representatives from Oakland University will explain the financial-aid process, and GreenPath Debt Solutions will give students information on sound financial practices. Walsh College also will provide instructional support.

The first session, Sept. 6, is titled "Monopoly Mayhem" and will feature a life-size game of Monopoly, where teens can win actual prizes and earn Monopoly money as part of an ongoing game that will continue throughout the year. The program will end in June with a Cash Carnival where teens can cash in their Monopoly money for prizes.

"The goal is to pair fun afterhours events to more educational sessions," said Olivia Olson, Troy library teen librarian.

The year-long game will reward those who save money," Olson said. "Those who earned a lot of Monopoly money will be able to get a return on their investment."

Other sessions scheduled for September are Introduction to Banking Sept. 14 and Saving, Investing (and) Debt Sept. 28.

As part of the program, Russ explained that the library contracted with Media Genesis for $10, 000 to set up the Financing Your Future website. In addition, Media Genesis provided a $5, 000 match in the form of 50 hours of digital development work.

"So we got a $15,000 website for $10,000," Russ said. Content for the sessions will be videotaped and downloadable from the website, which will feature a "Get Resources" tab that will have financial information for those of all ages.

"We wanted the content of the sessions to be available to the whole community," Russ added.

Lakiah Washington is the program administrator intern for the Financing Your Future program. She's been working with library staff on the project since May, in between her work toward earning her master's degree from Wayne State University in public relations.

"My role was meeting the expectations of the grant," Washington explained.

"It's an awesome opportunity and an incredible topic important for teens," she said. "The program hits home for me, as well," she said.

She explained that it took her a while to realize financing "is my responsibility. The earlier students learn financial responsibility, the better. I'm looking forward to making it fun and exciting for students," she said of the program. Teens that participate will be eligible to earn scholarships, which the Friends of the Troy Public Library have pledged $2, 000 toward. The Friends plan to raise funds in support of the scholarship going forward, Russ said.

As the requirements for the scholarship program are determined, they will be posted on the website.

Teens and others may access the site and register to attend the programs from the Troy library website at www.troylibrary.info. Click on "Financing Your Future." The library is located at 510 W. Big Beaver.