Volunteers needed for `Credit for Life’ financial literacy fair

Students spin the wheel for a reality check at last year’s Credit for Life fair. (Photo by Amy Porter)

WESTFIELD – Volunteers in Public Schools Coordinator Tina Macy is seeking volunteers to staff booths at Credit for Life, the financial literacy event for high school students on March 11 at Westfield State University.

Last year, 300 students from Westfield High School, Westfield Technical Academy, White Oak School and Southwick Regional participated, and Macy expects more students and schools this year.
Credit for Life is a hands-on interactive fair for high school students that asks them to pretend they are 25-years-old and on their own. Upon arrival at the fair, located in the Woodward Center, students are given a career, a salary, and a credit score which they wear around their necks. They then must navigate the room and make the financial choices that everyone faces on how to spend their money, e.g. living alone or having a roommate; furnishing that home, buying food and clothing, whether or not to buy a car, and if there is money left over for vacations and fun.
Meanwhile, volunteers will be staffing the booths and trying to entice students to buy what they’re selling, go on vacation, sign up for a credit card, and buy a new car.
Not every booth is for temptation. Students also have an opportunity to consult with financial advisers on how to improve their credit scores, and put money away for savings and to pay back loans.
At the end of the fair, the students’ choices are reviewed to see how they managed their money and whether they ended up in the black, or in the red.
Credit for Life was originally conceived of by the Federal Deposit insurance Corporation (FDIC) as a way to expose high school students around the country to the variety of financial choices they will be making once they’re out on their own, and to have a chance to think in advance about how their career choices and credit scores will impact their lives.
According to  Credit for Life, despite efforts 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 a great event; so, so practical and so engaging,” Macy said.
Macy said many area banks, credit unions and financial institutions participate in Credit for Life by sponsoring the event and sending volunteers who can offer practical, real-life advice to students.
However, all volunteers do not need to have a financial background in order to participate, and many are also needed at the booths that are selling merchandise and temptation. Last year, 90 volunteers signed up, the most ever; and Macy said the event ran more smoothly than ever before.
The commitment for volunteers is one morning, about four hours, from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. March 11 at the Woodward Center at Westfield State University. A volunteer training session will be held Feb. 28 from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. in Room 117 at Westfield High School where you can ask questions and see how the fair works.
If you cannot attend the Feb. 28 training, a brief training will be given by the booth chair on the day of the fair before the students arrive, which will explain to you exactly what you need to do.
To volunteer: Send your contact information to Tina Macy, VIPS of Westfield, at [email protected] Please include your name, company, telephone and email address.

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