Public Release: 

Youth financial literacy program receives financial boost

Middle and high school students in Tennessee to benefit

University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Paying bills, creating a budget and reading a paycheck are fundamental skills children need as they become working adults. However, these skills are not commonly provided through the standard education curriculum. That's why the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) has entered into a partnership with the SunTrust Foundation to increase financial literacy across Tennessee.

"We believe strongly in the importance of investing in our youth," said UTIA Chancellor Tim Cross. "Our partnership with SunTrust Foundation will allow us to expand our reach and prepare even more of tomorrow's leaders for personal financial success."

The SunTrust Foundation recently approved a $75,000 grant to grow UT Extension's "On My Own" financial literacy program in Tennessee. UT Extension's Family and Consumer Sciences Department, a part of UTIA, has been dedicated to supplementing financial literacy in Tennessee's schools for more than a decade. Its simulation-based program currently reaches more than 30,000 middle school and high school-age children in approximately 250-300 schools.

"We've been looking for a partner to expand our reach," said Dena Wise, the state coordinator for the UT Extension "On My Own" program. "Partnering with the SunTrust Foundation allows us to provide the needed personnel and time to make this program a continued success. We've never had a financial partner so eager to have such an active role in our programs before."

In addition to financial support, the SunTrust Foundation will provide volunteers to help staff classroom simulations. SunTrust Foundation hopes to target Tier 1 schools, as well as other private schools across the state.

"Building strong communities and partnering with organizations that align with SunTrust's purpose of Lighting the Way to Financial Well-Being is a fundamental goal of the SunTrust Foundation. We are honored to partner with UTIA to help grow the 'On My Own' financial literacy program," said David Fuller, president of the SunTrust Foundation. "This unique program provides middle school and high school-age children with the tools and skills they need to become financially confident later in life."

According to Wise, the goal of the program is to help students understand the connection between education, salary and lifestyle. The program provides real-life situations for students to encounter armed with a simulated education-level, career and salary. Students must choose options for transportation, childcare, education and other real-world monthly expenditures. Students are introduced to the differences between net and gross pay and how deductions and taxes impact a take-home salary.

Wise reports that students indicate a greater understanding of financial issues after each simulation. Most learn to write their first check, and many indicate that they are changing educational decisions because of the program. Wise hopes to expand these impacts across the state as the partnership between SunTrust Foundation and UT Extension continues.

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Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. ag.tennessee.edu.

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