What’s the best way to learn about personal finance? How about a workshop where you get to make financial choices – and sometimes mistakes – but all with play money?
First Nations Development Institute partnered with the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) in Portland, Oregon, to offer a “Crazy Cash City” workshop just yesterday, May 19, 2014. NAYA sponsors an alternative high school known as the Early College Academy that emphasizes student empowerment and academic excellence while integrating core American Indian and Alaska Native values in partnership with parents, families, elders and community members. First Nations is working with the Early College Academy to provide innovative financial education programming, including the “Crazy Cash City” workshop where more than 100 youth will learn the basics of budgeting, bill paying and financial responsibility.
“Students learn best in experiential settings,” noted Shawn Spruce, First Nations’ financial education trainer coordinating the event. “Kids like to hear, see, think and do. They are not just learning the concepts, they are carrying out the actual activities of budgeting and bill paying. Research shows that this is a much more effective learning model for youth than classroom lectures.”
The “Crazy Cash City” workshop is a 90-minute reality fair in which students have to navigate a series of simulated financial tasks designed to teach basic budgeting and banking skills. It is designed to be fun — since they are spending play money and not really buying things — but it is also informative and highly interactive. All participants are given a folder containing a fictitious family profile that listed what their income was, the income of a spouse, the age of any children, and any outstanding debt or benefits they received. The high school kids then visit about 10 booths that provided various choices for housing, transportation, child care and more, and are asked to make smart financial decisions based on their family profile. At the conclusion of the seminar, the students were expected to have a fully balanced budget that they logged in their check register and budgeting sheet. This workshop has been held multiple times with high schools in Gallup, New Mexico, and is based on the Credit Union National Association’s “Mad City Money” program.
The purpose of the event is to give the youth opportunities to practice good spending and budgeting habits prior to entering the “real world” after graduation. The idea is to promote smart and informed decisions that will last a lifetime. This event was made possible with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. First Nations is honored to be partnering with NAYA on this project, and proudly supports their work in an additional grant supported by The Kresge Foundation. “This event really brings together community partners and it is always great to work with the students and teachers,” said Michael E. Roberts, president of First Nations Development Institute. “We are happy that we found an exciting way to teach youth practical budgeting and banking skills that they can soon apply in the real world.”
By Sarah Dewees, First Nations Senior Director of Research, Policy & Asset-Building Programs