Students learn financial fitness

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AUBURN – The third annual Financial Fitness Money Management Experience Event, sponsored by Maine’s credit unions, saw a record number of students pack into the gym at Central Maine Community College to learn more about how to become fiscally fit.

The event, held April 5, saw 200 students from 12 schools in the central Maine area engaged in the process of learning and better understanding money management. The following schools participated: Dirigo High School, Edward Little High School, Jay High School, Leavitt Area High School, Lewiston Regional Technical Center, Lisbon High School, Livermore High School, Mt. Blue High School, Oxford Hills Christian Academy, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, Poland Regional High School and St. Dominic Regional High School.

In its three years, this was the largest number of participants, and organizers say the word about the event’s value to students is getting around. Donna Steckino, president/CEO of Community Credit Union and one of the organizers, said, “At first, we had to encourage schools to get involved, but now they are contacting us and wanting to get involved. The benefits of this event are paying off for students and schools recognize the positive impact it can have on helping students handle money.”

Created as a unique and fun experience for high school juniors and seniors, the experience is a half-day event during which students experience what their life would be like at age 22. The students have expressed an interest in money management education and have studied financial-goal setting.

At the beginning of the morning students receive a scenario packet that includes their occupation, income and credit history. From there, students have to map out their financial future from financing their housing to purchasing food and clothing. The day, which can be compared to an interactive “game of life,” builds awareness for youth education and for credit unions’ dedication to financial literacy in their communities.

“As students near graduation, this is an opportune time to start learning real life’ financial responsibility,” said Jon Paradise, governmental and public affairs manager for the Maine Credit Union League and Master of Ceremonies for the day.

“In the junior and senior year, students are in the process of planning their future, whether they decide to apply to go to college or to get a job after graduation, and it is critical that they gain a strong understanding of money and how to spend and save. Maine’s credit unions are proud to be part of the educational process and to once again be presenting this unique program.”

As one participant reflected on her experience, she said, “Playing with money is not a game and the lessons I learned today will certainly make me think about what I spend my money on, especially as I become an adult. I am really glad I had the chance to attend this event.”

Representatives from the Norm Nolette Chapter of Credit Unions, the Maine Credit Union League, the Maine Council on Economic Education and Central Maine Community College have helped to organize the experience.

The event also marked the beginning of a month-long list of activities coordinated by Maine’s credit unions as part of Gov. John Baldacci’s proclamation of April as Financial Literacy for Youth Month. Visit www.mainecul.org for more information.

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