The pandemic has been a call to action for the banking industry. The past year highlighted racial gaps in income, education, wealth, and economic opportunity, so banks and nonprofits are providing the next generation with financial education.
At Steelton High Spire Elementary, The Salvation Army and institutions like Centric Bank are pouring into students through enrichment academies. Financial literacy is a component that is crucial for upward mobility. Changing the way children think about money, can change the financial outlook of families.
“It’s a great place to start, because they're sponges. They want to learn,” said Leslie Meck, Chief Retail and Customer Experience Officer for Centric Bank.
But some children and adults do not receive an education in managing money. As a matter of fact, 66% of states have earned a “C” or worse on the Nation’s Report Card for Financial Literacy by the American Public Education Foundation. Pennsylvania made a “C” with the organization citing no high school stand-alone personal finance course nor grade - specific K – 8th financial literacy standards.
The divide is made further clear among demographics. The U.S. Census reported the poverty rate for Asians is 7.3%, Whites have a rate of 9.1%, Hispanics at 15.7% and the poverty rate for Blacks is 18.8%.
“We've actually taken extra steps to look at communities that are at risk. So, we've actually looked to volunteer in those communities,” said Meck.
Centric Bank brings in age appropriate materials like puzzles, mazes and journals. These resources make concepts like saving, discovering debt, or spending easy to absorb. “Roller Bucks” earned through good behavior also help students apply what they are learning, like how to build credit.
“Their earnings will be put into a system; they'll have a statement; and then we'll be able to purchase off of that,” said Yolanda Haywood Gross, Youth and Family Education Administrator for the Salvation Army Harrisburg. And the materials are beginning to apply to daily life. “They're at the store and their child will start asking about prices, or they'll ask the percentage off. So different conversations [parents are] hearing from their students is something that I hear about often.”
Centric Bank said sometimes these teachings and activities have residual effects at home. “There are some activities and worksheets that we give who were on site that they take home that they can do with their parents or anyone in their households,” said Meck.