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CTEP members help people "Saving Cents with Sense"

July 5, 2018

By Marshall Pritt, CTEP AmeriCorps Member at George Latimer Central Library

Credit applications, banking, and paying bills increasingly require a computer or the internet. But just because someone has an internet connection doesn’t mean they necessarily know how to fluently navigate financial systems online.

Jared Wiedmeyer and a few other CTEP members conceived "Save Cents with Sense" in 2016 as a civic engagement project to educate underserved adult populations on digital financial literacy. The project educated participants through a series of short classes on various digital financial concepts such as using Microsoft Excel and checking credit scores online. The workshops sought to educate those who may not have benefitted from a personal finance financial mentor.

Using lessons learned from the previous year, we offered two terms of Save Cents with Sense at Volunteers of America in Roseville, MN, a reentry center, and at the Hubbs Center for Lifelong Learning in Saint Paul, an adult education center. Each term consisted of about 4.5 hours of instruction and discussion, spread over two or three classes.

The participants at Volunteers of America (VOA) are reentering the workforce, the housing market, and the job market, often with outstanding debts from the criminal justice system or their lives prior to it. This group was very interested in debt repayment techniques, how to check credit scores, and budgeting. Often lively discussions broke out at VOA, with the ten participants sharing their experiences with debt or researching car loans. At the Hubbs Center, the students mostly consisted of recent immigrants preparing for college. They were mainly interested in using Microsoft Excel to budget their everyday spending, track their income, and save for school. Classes at the Hubbs Center were also larger, averaging about 15 participants each day.

"Americorps CTEP sessions were a very valuable and timely resource for me. They were thorough and pleasant and appreciated. I left with more confidence than when I came in." - VOA participant

Despite the differences in their goals and experiences, the 25 participants at both sites expressed many of the same anxieties and concerns with thinking about their finances. Coupling that with using a computer, which was also unfamiliar for many underscored the need for more programming like Saving Cents with Sense. Upon completion of the classes, participants expressed an excitement, rather than a fear, of what else they could do with digital finance tools.

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Civic Engagement Project Title: Saving Cents with Sense
Project Members: Jared Wiedmeyer, Brandon Phan, Marshall Pritt
Project Partners: Volunteers of America and Hubbs Center for Lifelong Learning

Each year our 35 CTEP AmeriCorps members choose community action projects that make a contribution to bridging the digital divide. The CTEP civic engagement projects are often cited by CTEP AmeriCorps members, staff, supervisors, and community supporters as one of the most unique and energizing parts of the program. This is one of the 2018 civic engagement projects.