WESTFIELD – Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS) coordinator Tina Macy has put out a call for volunteers for Credit for Life, an interactive financial literacy fair for high school students March 12 at Westfield State University. Participating will be seniors from Westfield High School, juniors from Westfield Technical Academy, and students from Southwick/Tolland and St. Mary’s High School, about 500- 600 total.
Credit for Life asks students to pretend they are 25 years old. Given a career, and a commensurate salary, they must make the financial choices they will face about spending money; such as deciding whether to live alone or have a roommate, where to buy furniture, what is the difference between buying & leasing, and do they need to save for retirement now.
Students are given a credit score, a savings account and the freedom to make their cash or credit purchases at any of the 16+ booths, which include housing, insurance, transportation, food and clothing among others. Their choices are reviewed at the end to see how they managed their money and whether they ended up in the black… or in the red.
Macy said at least 80 volunteers are needed for the fair. “With so many kids, the more volunteers, the better conversations that you can have with them,” she said. A lot of the volunteers are from the banks and financial institutions, along with regular VIPS volunteers, however more are needed. She said you don’t have to have financial expertise to participate, just life experience.
“My first time two years ago, I was chairperson of the furniture booth,” Macy said, adding that there are several other positions easily picked up by anyone. For example, one booth sells cars to students. Macy said salespeople try to get the students into cars that are too expensive for them. Others try to sell vacations and cruises to them. She said at the end, when the tally is added up, students may have to go back and return their purchases.
Macy said the purpose of the fair is educational. She said despite the efforts made at home and in school, less than 34% of high school teens can balance a checkbook, only 51% know how to write a check, and fewer than 29% understand credit card fees. Students report that they are amazed at how difficult it is to manage money, pay bills and balance a budget, and really appreciate this ‘make believe’ chance given to them at the fair.
“It’s very fun and interesting to be a part of. I wish I had that when I was in college,” Macy said.
Macy said the volunteer commitment is four hours, 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. on the morning of Tuesday, March 12 at the Woodward Center at Westfield State University. A volunteer training session will be held on Thursday, March 7 from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. in the auditorium at Westfield High School where volunteers may ask questions and see how the fair works. If you cannot attend the training session, a brief training will be given by the booth chair to which you’ve been assigned on the day of the fair, before the students arrive.
All volunteers must pre-register in order for assignments to be made. To volunteer, send your contact information to Tina Macy, VIPS of Westfield, [email protected] Please include your name, company, telephone and email address.