MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
Forty-one volunteers from the Maxwell-Gunter community have spent the last several weeks helping children from Thelma S. Morris elementary school in Montgomery learn basic financial skills through the Junior Achievement program.
The Junior Achievement program is designed to teach kids of different ages the basics of saving money, starting a business, paying taxes and becoming overall more financially literate through a series of hands-on, engaging activities.
As the first school in the Montgomery school district to implement this program, T.S. Morris served as a model, and leadership said they hope others will soon follow.
“We are 100 percent title one, meaning a majority of our students are coming from a poverty background,” said DeNitta Hollman-Easterling, Thelma S. Morris Elementary principal. “With poverty, we equate that to financial instability and some of their parents have probably not been taught that as well. Hopefully we can break that cycle - somebody has to be the one to break that cycle, and this exposure can hopefully get the ball rolling.”
The school has implemented the curriculum into all grade levels in order to kick-start the program, something Hollman-Easterling admitted is to ideally instill these concepts at a young age.
“At the kindergarten level, kids are being introduced to the basics of education (words, reading and math),” said Staff Sgt. Spencer Davies, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and Junior Achievement volunteer. “JA focuses on entrepreneurship, financial literacy and work readiness, which I believe should also be introduced at the early level. They are key pillars to everyone's life, so building that foundation at a young age will hopefully boost the kid's successes as they grow. The teacher even told me she wished she had been taught finances at a younger age.”
The volunteers from the Maxwell-Gunter community said they came out to the school for various reasons, but the common theme among volunteers was the opportunity to help further the local youth and community.
“I enjoy working with youth and especially building their financial literacy and leadership skills,” said Master Sgt. Nikesha Tilton, Ira C. Eaker Center for Professional Development Career Development Course writer. “This program is long overdue for the youth of Montgomery and I was honored to be a part of the team to bring it here. It was a joy working with the volunteers, students and staff at T.S. Morris and seeing everyone working together to enrich the lives of the students.”
According to Hollman-Easterling, in addition to the core curriculum of the program, the relationships built between the volunteers and students had an equally significant impact on both parties.
“Toward the end of the program, a lot of volunteers brought in cupcakes and gave the kids gifts of some kind and it was really sort of a graduation for them,” she said. “I think the children really appreciated that part and I hope the volunteers did as well because a lot of times our kids will see things start and they don’t see the end process, so just achieving that award and achieving that certificate I think made a big difference. For these kids, receiving a medal or certificate puts a big smile on their faces and that is something they will remember for a lifetime.”