NORTH BAY – Redwood Credit Union, along with Santa Rosa City Schools and the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, is hosting a course in financial literacy for high school students this summer.
To increase understanding of economics and finance and encourage young people to make responsible financial decisions, these agencies decided to provide knowledge to students with yet another in the chamber’s series of summer academies.
The Financial Literacy Academy is loosely based on a successful model piloted last year through the Santa Rosa Chamber’s Algebra Academy.
Using the High School Financial Planning Program created by the National Endowment for Financial Education, the program will include helpful topics such as budgeting, financial planning, saving and investing, credit and debt management and other life skills related to managing money.
“I believe that lack of financial literacy is one of the core reasons we are in the economic situation we are in,” said Brett Martinez, president and chief executive officer of the Santa Rosa-based credit union.
Mr. Martinez was instrumental in getting the program started. He has long been concerned with the lack of education in simple financial areas such as balancing a checkbook and creating a budget.
The Business Education and Leadership Committee of the chamber meets quarterly, and it was at the November 2008 meeting that Mr. Martinez brought up the idea of the academy, said Kelly Bass, marketing and public relations manager for the chamber.
“Everyone agreed it was important,” she said. “If people are not learning to balance a budget, they are not necessarily learning that having a credit card is not having free money. The goal is to teach fiscal responsibility, which is not necessarily taught at home. We don’t want the next generation to be in the same trouble as the current generation.”
The Financial Literacy Academy will be held at Redwood Credit Union’s administrative offices in Santa Rosa, Aug. 3 through 6 in a 16-hour course. Students entering their junior and senior years at any Santa Rosa district high school in the fall of 2009 will be eligible to enroll. Details regarding costs and enrollment process will be available soon.
“We are passionately committed to financial literacy and strongly believe that key financial skills learned at a young age are beneficial for a lifetime,” said Mr. Martinez. “Eventually, we would like to see financial-management skills made a mandatory part of the state’s high school economics curriculum, so we are piloting this summer session as a way to introduce and examine the process.”
The goal is for the program to eventually become part of the high school requirement.
“I am really excited that this academy is happening, and I am really excited that this may be part of the economics classes,” Ms. Bass said.
The chamber’s original summer educational program, Algebra Academy, was such a success that this year it is planning two sessions, according to Ms. Bass.
Last year, 29 students entering ninth grade and learning English as a second language participated in Algebra Academy, a program that gets students familiar with the concepts of algebra before they encounter them in regular classes.
In addition to the chamber, Agilent Technologies, JDS Uniphase and Medtronic CardioVascular were sponsors of the program.
“It really opened their eyes to a world they didn’t know before,” Ms. Bass said. The goal is to have 10 academies in 2010.
This year there will be 60 students participating, and in addition to the companies involved last year, PG&E will be a sponsor.
RCU offers other financial literacy and outreach programs besides the summer academy and hosts a variety of free educational seminars and events for its members and the community throughout the year.
For a list of current seminar offerings, dates and times, go to www.redwoodcu.org/seminars.
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