How Money Smart Educators Are Helping Former Offenders Begin a New Life
About 7.1 million adults in the United States were under the supervision of correctional authorities at year-end 2010, according to the most recent information from the U.S. Department of Justice. In addition, a large number of adults have been transitioned from a correctional setting back into communities. Some Money Smart educators have used the FDIC’s financial education curriculum to help inmates prepare to reenter society and give others with criminal backgrounds the financial knowledge they need to begin a new life. Here are some of their Money Smart Success Stories.
Since 2005, Pathways for Change in Escambia County, Florida, has run 12- and 18-month programs to help convicted offenders with previous substance abuse problems transition back to the community. “Human transformation is our business,” said current Executive Director Chris Collins, and he credited the program’s educational efforts as a reason why more than 80 percent of their clients did not commit new crimes after they were released.
In early 2011, Connie Bookman, the then Executive Director, gave a presentation at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Pensacola, Florida. Around the same time, the United Way of Escambia County contacted the church looking for volunteers to teach Money Smart. Jerry Frymire, an official at St. John’s church and a retired corrections officer from the Escambia County Jail, contacted Pathways for Change and offered to teach the Money Smart course to the inmates. This led to a new and thriving outreach ministry at St. John’s to teach financial literacy at the jail. The efforts at Pathways for Change, St. John’s Episcopal Church and the jail continue to multiply as Money Smart classes will be expanded to reach the families of inmates, the general public, and other churches throughout the Diocese.
This summer in Boston, Massachusetts, the United States Probation Office kicked off its first financial literacy program for offenders who have substantial court-imposed financial obligations or who have struggled managing their finances. The program, featuring Money Smart, consisted of six weeks of 90-minute classes covering topics such as budgeting, saving, opening and maintaining a checking account, electronic banking, credit repair, installment loans, and taxes.
Eleven participants of the program received certificates of completion at a graduation ceremony. Laura M. Roffo, the Supervising U.S. Probation Officer said, “The program received overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees and presenters, and culminated in a spirited game of ‘Financial Jeopardy.’” She added that the pilot program exceeded expectations, and that the Probation Office plans to expand on that foundation and offer additional programs.
In Perry, Georgia, Grace Village is a 24-unit women’s homeless shelter that offers 90 to 120 days of refuge from personal crises, in addition to food and shelter. Christine Watson, an Executive Administrative Assistant to the President and Chief Executive Officer of CB&T Bank of Middle Georgia, Warner Robins, Georgia, uses Money Smart to teach life skills at Grace Village to help prepare the residents for transitioning back into the community.
“Some of these women had been incarcerated and were released to Grace Village to satisfy probation requirements, and others have found themselves with nowhere to go for a number of other reasons, many of which include making bad financial decisions,” Watson said. “I encourage the women to keep their guide to the Money Smart ‘Financial Recovery’ module since it contains the Web addresses and phone numbers of agencies they will likely need to contact as they implement what they’ve learned in the class and transition into what I hope will be a more productive life and living environment.”
“Here we see another example of how Money Smart can help those who probably never were taught some of the basics of money management understand how they can move forward in the world and build confidence that, with hard work, they can reach their financial goals,” said Luke W. Reynolds, Acting Associate Director of the FDIC's Division of Depositor and Consumer Protection. “This is something that they and their families can be proud of.”
Students Use Money Smart for Young Adults in Financial Education Competition
The graduating class last spring at Nashua High School South (NHSS) in Nashua, New Hampshire, included two members who teamed up to win a state championship and finish fifth out of nearly 200 competitors at a national competition held in Salt Lake City, Utah. Although the honors didn’t propel Sagar Chitalia and Trevor Haney to football-hero status around the school, the results certainly demonstrated that the FDIC’s Money Smart for Young Adults curriculum can help prepare high school students to make more informed decisions to better secure their financial future.
It all started in September of 2011 when Chitalia and Haney told fellow members of the school’s chapter of DECA (an international association for students interested in marketing and other business careers) about the organization’s Financial Literacy Promotion Project. That program provides an opportunity for students to be judged on how they plan, conduct and evaluate a campaign promoting the importance of financial literacy. Nick Penkala, one of the school’s DECA members, reached out to his father, John, a Review Examiner with the FDIC’s Division of Depositor and Consumer Protection in Concord, New Hampshire. John Penkala immediately connected the students to FDIC Community Affairs Specialist Paul Horwitz in Braintree, Massachusetts. Chitalia and Haney discussed their plans for the project with Horwitz, who sent them the Money Smart for Young Adults curriculum, which they used to help shape the direction of the project and create four workshops at the school.
In December, Chitalia, Haney and fellow DECA members began two weeks of workshops attended by 769 students at their school, covering topics such as the basics of earning and spending, checking accounts, budgeting, credit, paying for college, and identity theft. Two of the workshops were taught by Liz Kirwan, a Branch Manager at Granite State Credit Union located at Nashua High School North, in Nashua, New Hampshire, and Josh Sullivan, an Assistant Branch Manager at a local branch of Citizens Bank, headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island. Chitalia, Haney and other members of the DECA chapter conducted the two other workshops.
To gauge how much the students learned, they were given pre- and post-workshop tests that are part of the Money Smart for Young Adults curriculum. The results showed that the financial knowledge of the participants increased an average of 37 percent.
For the DECA state championships in February in Manchester, New Hampshire, Chitalia and Haney developed a paper and a presentation about how the workshops strengthened their classmates’ money-management skills. The two students scored a 97 percent for their paper and presentation – the highest score in any category at the competition.
Chitalia and Haney then went on to DECA’s national competition in May, and placed fifth out of nearly 200 teams from the United States and other countries.
Chitalia and Haney, currently freshman at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, respectively, said they learned valuable lessons about the importance of financial education as a result of the DECA project and the Money Smart for Young Adults workshops. The most important is that there is a need and a demand for financial education for young adults. They cited the strong turnout at the workshops, for which reservations were taken on a first-come, first-admitted basis. As they said in their award-winning paper,“Now more than ever, it is important for everyone, young adults especially, to be able to understand their financial situation and how to take care of their money.”
Trevor Haney (far left) and Sagar Chitalia (far right) celebrated with team members from New Hampshire’s Nashua High School South after their Money Smart for Young Adults program scored big at DECA’s 2012 national competition for students interested in business careers