Kickstart to Career Newaygo County—a joint program of Fremont Area Community Foundation and ChoiceOne Bank—launched on March 22 at the Neway Center in Newaygo. The program is designed to build aspirations, encourage savings, increase financial education, and assist with college or career expenses after high school.
Starting in the fall of 2018, every kindergarten student in Newaygo County will have the opportunity to be the beneficiary of an account at ChoiceOne, opened with a $50 deposit from the Community Foundation.
Students will be able to earn additional contributions and families can make deposits at any time. Upon graduating from high school, students can use their accounts to help pay for post-secondary education and career-related expenses such as tuition, books, tools, or training.
At the launch event, staff and board representatives from the Community Foundation and ChoiceOne Bank were joined by local school superintendents, administrators, and school board members. The audience was greeted by Carla Roberts, president and CEO of the Community Foundation, and Kelly Potes, president and CEO of ChoiceOne Bank.
“This is a special day,” said Roberts. “The tool is a children’s savings account program, but it’s much more than that. Research shows that having even a relatively small amount of savings has a significant impact on the way a child thinks about and prepares for their future. Children with savings accounts have better math and reading scores, develop greater expectations for themselves, and are more likely to enroll in and graduate from college.”
Potes explained that in addition to opening savings accounts, ChoiceOne will provide the technology for families to monitor accounts online and partner with local school districts to provide financial literacy education in classrooms.
“We’re really excited,” said Potes. “As a father of five kids who are now grown up and out of school, I can attest to the fact that saving for college and career is really important. It’s a great honor for us to help Fremont Area Community Foundation and families in the community.”
Preschool students from the Neway Center—who will be among the first group to receive savings accounts—and their teachers also participated. Students wrote and illustrated a book about saving money that was presented to the group. They also each received a piggy bank to begin saving for their own accounts. After the presentation, school officials signed a memorandum of understanding to certify their district’s participation in Kickstart to Career. Participating districts are Big Jackson Public Schools, Fremont Christian School, Fremont Public Schools, Grant Christian School, Grant Public Schools, Hesperia Community Schools, Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency, Newaygo Public Schools, and White Cloud Public Schools.
Lynne Robinson, a retired educator and former Community Foundation trustee, remarked on the impact of the event on the students who participated.
“There was a room full of people these kids don’t know and might not ever see again, but these kids understand now that somebody cared enough about them that they gave money to start them on a path to success,” said Robinson. “That has an impact. This is the beginning of that tie to the community as they grow up.”
In December, Fremont Area Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees approved Kickstart to Career as a 10-cohort pilot program, including students entering kindergarten from 2018 through 2027. The program will serve approximately 550 children in the first year and more than 7,000 students total. Fremont Area Community Foundation expects to make more than $3.4 million in deposits during this time.
There are currently 54 child savings account programs nationwide with more than 380,000 children participating. In Michigan, Barry County and Lansing have children’s savings account programs. Muskegon County is slated to launch theirs in 2018.
For more information about Kickstart to Career Newaygo County, visit kickstarttocareer.org.