CAS-Carrera Participants are Upwardly “Mobile” with Junior Achievement and Capital One

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By: Kate Riley

On the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, when most New Yorkers are gearing up for the start of summer, 7th graders from the Urban Assembly Institute for Math and Science for Young Women took a field trip to eastern Long Island. Their bus disembarked not in the Hamptons but at the Long Island stop of the Capital One/Junior Achievement Mobile Finance Park in Hauppauge where students participated in a day-long budgeting simulation guided by Junior Achievement (JA) educators and Capital One volunteers.

All 77 students are enrolled in The Children’s Aid Society's Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (CAS-Carrera), which uses a holistic, “above the waist” approach to empower youth, help them develop personal goals and cultivate the desire for a successful future. The evidence-based program is built on seven integrated, scientifically accurate, and age-appropriate components. The employment component – Job Club – helps young people envision productive lives by exposing them to the world of work. Job Club is designed to improve financial literacy and develop life-long, positive financial decision-making through employment opportunities, entrepreneurial and community service projects, and personal bank accounts. CAS-Carrera partners JA and Capitol One have provided crucial resources to the program: the JA curriculum serves as the cornerstone of Job Club and Capital One is where student savings accounts are housed.

Nationally, JA and Capital One teamed up to create the Mobile Finance Park, a movable classroom that allows students to learn about and react to real-world financial scenarios. Soon after their arrival, the students were each given a “Life Situation” debit card that assigned marital status, number and age of children, tax and insurance expenses, and annual gross income. Using that data, each student was tasked to compute her monthly net income and budget it across 17 categories including housing, transportation, and entertainment.

Working with calculators, worksheets and guidance from the Capital One volunteers, the young women soon got a sobering view of how much money they would be “taking home” after taxes and other standard paycheck deductions. Tia Fiorentine, JA Program Manager, noted that in her experience of leading budgeting activities, students are most surprised by “how hard it is [to make a budget] and that adults actually have to do this.”

The Mobile Finance Park has helped thousands of students from the New York area (including all four CAS-Carrera New York City school sites) develop money management skills. Yet the JA staff and Capitol One volunteers at the May 27 session observed that teens tended to develop another important skill: empathy. Through their struggles to balance a budget, participants gained a new appreciation for the financial obligations their own families face. Jeanne Eberhardt, Branch Manager of the Floral Park Capital One location is a veteran volunteer who shared one boy’s reaction that has stayed with her for years. It was not until he was asked to formulate a budget for his fictional adult life did he realize how much his mother had to stretch to run their household. “I thought she was being cheap,” recalled Ms. Eberhardt, “I’m going home to give her a kiss.”

As though paying for clothing, rent, and education wasn’t tough enough, CAS-Carrera participants learned that having a family of one’s own – at any age -- can be expensive, too. One middle school student served as unofficial spokeswoman for her classmates whose financial obligations did not include children: “It’s awesome! I don’t want to deal with the terrible twos: buying them food, putting them to sleep.” Likewise, her classmate remarked, “I’m going to make a lot of money because I have no husband and no kids.”

Powerful learning experiences such as the Mobile Finance Park serve to reinforce CAS-Carrera’s primary goal for young people: to delay parenthood until the second decade of life.

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