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Financial literacy program for low-income teens expanding in Reno

MyPath Savings

Next year, a financial literacy program for low-income, working teens will be expanding in Northern Nevada. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss has the details. 

Listen to KUNR's extended interview with leaders from the MyPath program, which aired in April of 2014 just before the organization's pilot rolled out in Reno.

This year, 85 high school students in Reno, along with more rural areas like Dayton and Virginia City, took part in the MyPath Savings program which required them to open bank accounts, set financial goals for themselves, and save a portion of their paychecks. On average, this year's participants pocketed a fifth of their earnings.

For more than half of these students, their families have an annual income under $34,000 and receive public assistance.

Kellie George is with the United Federal Credit Union, which provided the savings accounts. She says a lot of low-income kids carry on the financial habits they've seen at home.

"Their parents cash checks through nontraditional ways," George explains, "such as going to a Walmart or a payday lending center. Here in Nevada, they're going to go to the casinos. And, so, when the kids begin to work, they follow the paths of the same way their parents cash their checks."

Four community organizations across the region carried the pilot program this year, including the Boys and Girls Club of Truckee Meadows. Tatiana Anderson-Hall led the initiative there and says that when kids are able to save money for clothing, a car, or even college courses, they begin to feel empowered in other ways.

She remembers one girl, specifically, who was failing her classes and on the verge of becoming a high school dropout.

"And then she took this financial literacy course," Anderson-Hall recalls, "and this opened her eyes for everything. She can go to college. She can be better than what her mom is. She doesn't have to have five kids and raise them on her own; she can, you know, be a doctor or a lawyer. This class has just really inspired her to take control of her future."

Next year, the MyPath Savings program, which started up in San Francisco five years ago, will more than triple its participants in Northern Nevada to roughly 300 high school students.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.