Dollars and sense

KAPAA — It’s been a year since the District Office under Junior Achievement Hawaii opened on Kauai.

The success of the financial literacy program has been beyond what Ivory Lloyd had hoped.

More schools are coming on board. More educators are interested in participating. More community members are volunteering.

And most important, more students are coming to understand monetary matters.

“It’s growing faster than we anticipated,” said Lloyd, Kauai district manager for JA Hawaii. “This last year has been really successful.”

About 75 people attended a pau hana gathering at The Hotel Coral Reef on Wednesday night. The goal was to thank sponsors and volunteers, outline JA’s impact and goals, and encourage others to get involved in helping youth learn about economic success.

Lloyd estimated that in the past year, about 1,000 students listened to JA presentations offered by about 50 volunteers who contributed about 170 hours in the classroom.

Those numbers are expected to increase this year.

“We are building an amazing and dedicated JA community of educators, entrepreneurs and passionate volunteers, and I’m just grateful to be a part of it,” the 2005 Kauai High graduate said.

JA covers the basics of debt, credit, savings, interest rates and investing. It offers guidance on saving for education, a home and cars. It looks at innovation and entrepreneurs. It goes over family matters, career choices, workforce readiness and potential earnings.

This year, it will be at Kapaa High, Kanuikapono Charter School, and elementary schools in Kilauea, Kapaa, Koloa, Kalaheo and Eleele.

The reason for its success is as simple as two plus two. More and more people, students and professionals, are recognizing the need for youth to understand dollars and cents and how decisions today can affect them years later.

“I know the impact that it has,” said Calvin Paleka, Kapaa High School ninth-grade JA coordinator and teacher.

“The time that you guys give back to our school goes a long way toward creating a better future for our students,” he added.

Monica Belz is a JA board member and marketing director with Kauai Community Federal Credit Union, which just opened the Raider Credit Union at Kauai High School.

“We really saw the need in our community for financial literacy for our youth,” Belz said. “There’s a huge gap.”

JA, KCFCU and the high school combined their resources to benefit students.

“We have the curriculum of Junior Achievement, the support of the high school and the experience and core competency of the credit union,” she said.

Having JA in the classrooms and the credit union in the school gives students the chance to apply what they are learning to a real-world situations.

“It changes us, it changes them,” she said. “This partnership is incredible.”

Students said JA works.

Kapaa High senior Bailey Bernabe was a sophomore when she first took a JA class. JA creates opportunities for students to expand horizons and build futures, Bernabe said.

“I can tell you the process of figuring out how to work the online banking system,” she said.

Senior Carson Schmick said the JA class his sophomore year was his first experience learning about financial literacy.

The result?

“That’s what I want to do (for a career),” he said.

Lloyd said JA is shifting toward elementary schools this year, so when students reach middle and high school, they have a financial foundation.

More volunteers are needed. It’s not necessary to be a banker, accountant or investor. The program provides volunteers with JA’s curriculum and training. It’s really just having a heart to help, donating a few hours of your time and a willingness to work with students.

“You just need to have life’s experiences and be a positive role model for our students,” Lloyd said.

Info: ivory@jahawaii.org

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