Michigan Jump$tart Coalition Sparks
Unified Financial Literacy Effort
For ten years the Michigan Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy has united public, private and non-profit organizations to support youth financial education.
Interview with Lois Gibbons of the Michigan Jump$tart Coalition –
Conducted, Edited and Condensed by Bryan Dahl, MCUL Information Services Coordinator
Through conferences, seminars and resource materials, it has equipped teachers and financial educators with the tools necessary to cover vital money management topics. It has also successfully advocated for financial literacy legislation supported by the MCUL, including a recently created law in Michigan that allows a personal finance course to satisfy a high school math credit.
It's good to model healthy money habits. It can be a new lifestyle some children wouldn't be exposed to otherwise.
The organization’s partners are diverse, further proving that the financial literacy profile has risen significantly in Michigan during the new millennium. Along with the MCUL, Michigan Jump$tart’s partner organizations include groups like State Farm Insurance, United Way, and numerous departments of the Michigan government, including OFIR; all of these chip in to support Jump$tart with money, materials and promotion.
I spoke with Lois Gibbons, chair of the Michigan Jump$tart Coalition executive committee, about what the coalition does, how she became a part of it and what benefits credit unions can get out of becoming a partner or a member.
How did you come to work with Jump$tart?
I spent most of my life teaching in the college setting. In 2001, I was asked to be the director of the First Accounts program at a non-profit in Detroit called the Accounting Aid Society. When I came onto that as an educator, I realized that the goal shouldn’t just be getting people signed up for bank accounts, but educating people about why they need credit and why they should be affiliated with a financial institution. I then became director of financial literacy there until funding ran out, and I started my own business, Harmony Financial, at the suggestion of a credit union CEO. I became a consultant and educator, and was appointed to the chair position of Michigan Jump$tart in 2007. I’ve done training across the state and really enjoyed it. I’ve found that teaching personal finance really is my passion, because you know that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.
How can you best summarize the purpose of the Michigan Jump$tart Coalition?
The Michigan Jump$tart Coalition is a collaborative effort by businesses, government, non-profits and individuals interested in promoting K-12 personal finance education.
Can you talk a bit about what it means to be a partner or member of Michigan Jump$tart?
A member is someone who pays dues; our partners are not paid members, but they offer support in various ways by providing resource materials or connecting us with others. We actually have very few financial institutions as partners, although Extra Credit Union is a partner, along with groups that work with financial institutions such as the MCUL, the FDIC, the Michigan Debt Collectors Association and Greenpath Debt Solutions.
An organization or an individual can become a member. They engage in our activities and are an integral part of the organization. For credit unions and individual staff, a benefit of becoming a Jump$tart member is they can see more of how and why to get in-school banking partners. As a member, you can be active in the coalition by serving on a committee, helping with our teacher training conferences, and promoting our Money Smart Kid libraries and Junior Ambassador contests. We need people to get the information out there and help promote our events. We need people to keep up on new resources to share.
What is the relationship between the MCUL and Jump$tart?
I don’t know where Michigan Jump$tart would be without the MCUL, the Federal Reserve and partners like that. They are integral parts in what makes our coalition a success. Many of the activities that we do are supported by the League, as well as the Web site and some registration systems.
Why was Michigan Jump$tart created?
We know that involvement with money is a value set, and the younger we start with children, the better off they’ll be. We recommend they get a savings account, which allows them to handle money, make choices, and see the ramifications. To me, there’s no reason why a credit union wouldn’t have a lifetime member out of that, because they’ll understand the importance of associating with a financial institution.
The younger we get them, the more apt they are to be financially savvy and literate, and I think that’s very important. It’s why we should have in-school credit unions at a very early age. I’ve seen the benefits by being in schools and working with the teachers and children. Financial education is a very powerful tool, especially for children that haven’t been fortunate enough to have parents who act as role models for saving. It’s good as Jump$tart and as credit unions to model healthy money habits. It can be a new lifestyle some children wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise.
Being a part of the Jump$tart Coalition nationally and locally is a win-win for all of us involved. The promotion, the contacts, the networking, the amount of resources; I’m very proud to be part of a coalition where 98 to 99 percent of teachers and attendees say that our conference is worthwhile and that they’d return. Any credit union deciding to be a part of our coalition can get greater exposure.
Learn more about Michigan Jump$tart’s teacher conferences and how to become a partner or member at www.mijumpstartcoalition.org.