State Treasurer Kate Marshall was on hand to accept $20,000 from Schwab Bank for the funding of the 400 accounts, which adds to Marshall’s original plan, covering all kindergarten students in 13 counties. Marshall said the rural counties were all the program could handle, but the donation from Schwab Bank will allow Washoe County students to boost their college outlook.
“Research shows that if you give a child a college savings account, even with one dollar in it, that child is seven times more likely to go to college,” Marshall said. “Why? Because when children go to school, they are quickly able to assess whether or not their family is going to have the financial means for them to go to college or not.
“They know it takes money and if they don’t have the money they check out. They are no longer listening. But even with a dollar in an account, a child begins to realize there is an account with my name on it and they start to shade toward a future life.”
Marshall said the rate of Nevadans saving for college when school begins is minimal, but she said changing the culture of the state is part of its “coming of age,” which will change the way students view college from the time they begin school.
“Every time I go to the legislature they ask the same question: ‘How many Nevadans are saving for college?’” Marshall said. “And they know the answer is very very small. Nevada is coming of age and part of that is to create a college-bound culture here, and you don’t start that in 12th grade. You start that in Year One.”
Joining Lincoln Park Elementary in the Nevada College Kick Start Program are Title I schools Natchez Elementary, Libby Booth Elementary, Veterans Elementary and Kate Smith Elementary. Angela Flora, principal at Lincoln Park Elementary, said inspiring her students to think about college early will be easier with the new Kick Start accounts.
“To get a culture of education, and get that little bit of hope that it might happen for them in the future, I think is really important for our kids to know at kindergarten,” Flora said. “It’s that little spark of hope. It puts in the child’s mind at the age of 5 that ‘college is a possibility for me.’
“We work really hard with the kids to get them ready for college and a career, and we visit UNR and other businesses in the community. I think that culture is growing regardless of this program and this program adds even more into that culture.”
Flora was presented $500 and hosted volunteers from Schwab Bank Tuesday to help promote financial literacy throughout the school with the help of the Junior Achievement of Northern Nevada (JA) program. The JA volunteers held classroom training in entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy at Lincoln Park and will continue to work with the school in the future.
“We are partnering with Junior Achievement and Charles Schwab to do some family education nights about the Kick Start program,” Flora said about working with students in the fall. “I think that will be very well attended and I think our families are going to embrace this whole-heartedly and they are going to be very excited about it.
“Sometimes I think kids think it is out of reach because of the expense, but at age 5 when we are saying they have this amount of money put away for them it pushes them to think about the possibility.”
City of Sparks leaders were also in attendance, including Sparks Mayor Geno Martini and Ward 1 Councilwoman Julia Ratti. Both were excited about the possibilities for children who use a savings program.
“It is a program really that is near and dear to my heart because when I was in elementary school a few years ago we had a school savings program,” Martini said. “I think it is a wonderful program for kids. They have got to learn sometime how to save and I think it was good for me to learn to save as a child and I ended up going to college, and the rest is history.”
Ratti, who endured a different situation, agreed that instilling in students’ minds the importance of saving cannot come soon enough. Ratti said she has spent a lot of time with the families in the area and knows many of the challenges they face. She knows this program can only bring good to those families.
“Like Mayor Martini, I was the first in my family to graduate from college and we didn’t really think about the money too much until we got there,” Ratti said. “That first day when you go up to the bookstore and there are four credit card applications in the bag. I loaded up those cards with about $10,000 worth of debt and it took me a few years in my adult life to figure it out before I became passionate about financial literacy.”