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Program teaches teens the value of money
By Laura Whelan
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The Jump$tart Coalition of Mississippi and Mississippi State University Extension Service are teaching young people how to put their money to good use during National Financial Literacy for Youth month in April.
Extension family resource management area agent Susan Cosgrove serves as vice president of the Mississippi Jump$tart Coalition, a national non-profit organization that officially founded a Mississippi branch in 2000. Its mission is to improve the personal financial literacy of Mississippi's youth by teaching money management skills and making financial resources available to the state's teachers.
"National Financial Literacy for Youth month is an effort to educate young people in the right and wrong ways to spend money, to teach them how to budget, save and invest, and to warn them of the dangers of credit cards and scams," Cosgrove said.
"American teens spent $170 billion in 2002," reported Jump$tart Coalition state president Julie McAdory. "The typical college undergrad carries three credit cards with a total balance of $2,300, while one out of three high school students has a credit card. America's young people love to spend money, but they may not know how to spend wisely."
MSU's Extension Service first became involved with Jump$tart when Housebill 820, requiring Mississippi schools to teach personal financial education, was passed in 1999.
"Extension Service is in a position to help implement Jump$tart's financial teaching strategies by providing training for teachers in financial management curriculum," Cosgrove explained. "If teachers understand the importance of money management for themselves and know about the free resources available to them, they will be better equipped to instill those lessons in young people."
MSU Extension agents and the Jump$tart special projects committee are holding four "Money Matters" seminars in high schools in Greenville, Batesville, Holly Springs and Jackson in late March and early April. These seminars will teach high school students financial literacy skills and also will provide teachers with training and free financial literacy resources available through Jump$tart.
"The students really enjoy learning about money in a hands-on learning environment, rather than from a textbook. They realize how important financial management is because it applies to everyday life," Cosgrove said.
Other National Financial Literacy for Youth month activities include a press conference at the state capitol on April 8 with speakers Secretary of State Eric Clark and State Treasurer Marshall Bennett. Also on April 8, Jump$tart and MSU Extension Service will announce their Personal Financial Literacy Teacher Conference planned for July 9-11. This conference will be held at MSU and will train more than 300 Mississippi teachers of grades 6 through 12 to teach financial management skills.
"The average high school graduate lacks basic skills in money management and is unable to handle money carefully in the real world," Cosgrove said. "If students can be prepared before they get out of school, they can establish good money management habits that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
"MSU Extension Service and Jump$tart both have these priorities and are networking together extremely well to improve financial literacy in Mississippi," Cosgrove said.