$pending Simulation Gets Gallup in a Frenzy

Spending Frenzy Full-Logo

In April, First Nations worked with Gallup Central High School financial literacy teacher Arnold Blum and First Financial Credit Union’s Dale Dedrick to provide the $pending Frenzy financial simulation. The goal was to help GRADS students (Graduation, Reality and Dual-Role Skills program) and other Gallup Central students put principles they learned throughout the year into practice. First Nations provided a series of four simulations for all students at Gallup Central (about 100).

The $pending Frenzy simulation allowed students to practice handling a one-year salary of $30,000 to make spending decisions at a series of booths for big purchases like a car and a home (or rental). In addition, students considered smaller purchases such as a food plan and home furnishings. Students also had the opportunity to save money and/or invest money at a bank booth, were instructed to pay taxes on their salary at a tax booth, and were dealt “chance” cards with unexpected life events that either cost them or resulted in money (such as the birth of a child, breaking a leg in an accident, or receiving an award for a piece of art).

Thanks to the coordination of Blum and Dedrick, the various booths were run by local merchants who represented the purchases students had to make. For example, Realtor Jason Valentine from Coldwell Banker ran the home-buying booth, Teri Garcia from Amigo Chevrolet operated the automobile sales booth, Castle Furniture owner Jimmy Villanueva sold items at the shopping mall booth, and representatives from the local First Financial Credit Union managed the bank booth. Additionally, several local officers of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, and representatives from Native Community Finance (a local Native Community Development Financial Institution), Lowe’s Shop’n Save, and Little Singer Community School assisted with a variety of other booths.

Volunteers at the $pending Frenzy

Volunteers at the $pending Frenzy

“This year’s $pending Frenzy was a genuine community event for our school with local business volunteers from a variety of industries,” stated Gallup Central Financial Literacy teacher Arnold Blum. “The vendors gave students genuine pitches for up-selling, allowing our kids to practice negotiating. The business leaders debriefed the students afterwards and taught them financial lessons.”

First Nations financial education consultant Shawn Spruce agreed: “Teaming up with communities to create positive energy is what the $pending Frenzy is all about. It was great to see so much support from local businesses and organizations all focused on financially empowering students.”

Surveys collected from students following the $pending Frenzy demonstrated that the students found the simulations to be very useful. Of all who completed a survey, 97% agreed that the $pending Frenzy was a valuable experience and 85% indicated that they would use the information they learned to assist them in managing money. Senior Shay Billie concurred and noted, “I thought the $pending Frenzy was cool because I learned skills I can use to get ahead in life.”

This initiative was made possible through generous funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. For more information about the program please contact Benjamin Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer, at bmarks@firstnations.org or (540) 371-5615.

Native Student-Parents Learning Financial Fitness

Native American high school students are learning the ropes of financial fitness in Gallup, New Mexico.

Recently, 19 student-parents in grades 9-12 took charge of their financial futures and visited Pinnacle Bank to open up Youth Savings Accounts (YSAs) for themselves and Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs) for their young children. Bank representatives also walked students through how they could access their credit reports.

With generous funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is teaming up with longtime partner Gallup Central High School (Central High) to facilitate a multi-modal financial education program that includes opening savings accounts. First Nations is providing initial seed deposits of $50 for each of the accounts.

Part of a statewide initiative in New Mexico focused on providing support and education to pregnant and parenting teens, Central High houses the Graduation, Reality and Dual-Role Skills (GRADS) class for student-parents. Starting in the fall semester of the 2015-2016 academic year, GRADS students are now receiving lessons in financial topics such as safe banking products, budgeting and creating savings goals.

First Nations was interested in working with the GRADS program at Central High because of the unique opportunity to provide dual-generation support to Native American parents and their young children. Furthermore, past research by First Nations has discovered a large number of high-cost payday lending institutions in Gallup and the surrounding community that saturate the market with poor check-cashing and borrowing options. Young parents struggling with finances are especially vulnerable to these institutions.

Working with faculty at Central High, First Nations is implementing an initiative titled the Well-Being in Student Health and Financial Self-Sufficiency (WISHSS) that includes opening savings accounts in conjunction with financial education lessons for GRADS students. As part of the initiative, the GRADS program offers financial education in a variety of formats including guest lectures from financial experts, experiential learning events, as well as through a social media application that encourages good spending and savings decisions. The MoneyThink mobile app is designed like Instagram, whereby students are given challenges to snap pictures of items they are savings for or recently purchased. Fellow students can weigh in through comments and polls to determine if their classmate made a wise or not-so-savvy financial decision.

Between late August and early September 2015, the GRADS teacher shuttled groups of three to six students to local bank partner, Pinnacle Bank, to open up accounts for students and their children. In total, 19 students opened accounts for themselves with an additional 14 for their children (some students are expecting and will open up CSAs for their children once the babies are born). The initial deposit for both accounts was provided by First Nations, but students are expected to save and deposit at least $50 throughout the school year. A match of $50 will be provided to students who can meet their savings goals. After a few weeks, several student have already begun making contributions to their accounts!

The YSA and CSA accounts are currently custodial accounts, which require advanced consent from the custodian (First Nations) to make a withdrawal. Students will have a variety of options to take complete ownership of their accounts at the end of the WISHSS program.

Prior to the WISHSS initiative, only three students indicated having bank accounts. Moreover, student surveys suggested that the majority of the class had very little experience with banking institutions and safe banking products available to them. Students were excited to open accounts and begin the savings habit. Many students established savings goals such as for purchasing a car, saving for college, and a future apartment or house.

Student parents are allowed to enter the GRADS program on a rolling basis throughout the academic year. First Nations and Central High will continue to work with Pinnacle Bank to open accounts as the school year progresses.

By Benjamin Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer