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[WKMG 6] This Getting Results Award winner is teaching the next generation how to build wealth

April is Financial Literacy Month.

Every year around this time, this week’s Getting Results Award winner organizes a workshop so kids can get a head start on their money management skills.

Lashea Reaves, founder of the nonprofit, 8 Cents In A Jar, has been helping kids and young adults build a solid financial foundation since 2016.

“It’s one thing to read about finances and bills and careers in a textbook and another thing to make it actually come to life,” Reaves said from the floor of the gymnasium at Oak Ridge High School.

On this day, the space has been turned into the simulated city of Eightville where a virtual economy keeps hundreds of students busy.

350 students from 20 middle and high schools across Central Florida participated in the 4th Annual Teach Students Money Expo. The program targets students in marginalized neighborhoods and communities of color.

All around Reaves, students move from one kiosk to another, with budget sheets in hand.

“Over here we have our banks. This is where they go to cash their checks. Once they do that they have enough money to spend, but more importantly, save,” Reaves said.

The students get a taste of adulthood. They are given a credit score, monthly income, and a family scenario. Then they have to budget their money while paying for things like rent, electricity, food, insurance, childcare, and transportation.

“Any time I see a group of students that are strategizing, it puts a smile on my face,” said Reaves, as the kids around her wrestled with hard decisions.

Tellis Haney from Carver Middle School, was handed the life of a single father with three kids living on a $30,000 dollar-a-year sales job.

“I think it’s pretty cool. They teach you about what you’re going to learn in the future,” said Haney.

The seventh-grader was most surprised by the cost of daycare.

“I think it’s too much,” Haney said. “I have $2000 and it was like $6-$900 dollars. So I’m trying to get a second job.”

Reaves started the nonprofit after pulling herself out of a tough financial situation.

“The story behind Eight Cents In A Jar started from my own testimony, not understanding money, not knowing anything about the real world,” Reaves recounted.

“I ended up being a homeless mom in college. So it wasn’t until I was in college that I realized like, hey, I need to learn about my finances. And so I did. But then I realized all students need to know about their finances. Why wait until they are adults. Let’s teach them as youngest eight years old and have fun with it.”

Kori Collier had so much fun she returned the next year to volunteer.

Collier, a student at West Orange High School, went through the program a year ago. She said she fell in love with the expo and returned this year as an intern.

“I liked how it showed us real life,” Collier said. “It’s not all cupcakes and rainbows.”

At 16, Collier now has a savings account and is about to start her first job as a restaurant hostess. “What I learned last year definitely helped me,” Collier said. “Now I’m helping everyone else navigate and do better in the game.”

“What keeps me going are the success stories,” Reaves said. “Just to hear the positivity, the generational wealth, the legacy that our students are creating right now is monumental.”

8 Cents In A Jar offers several financial literacy programs for kids. Registration and enrollment are required.

Date Published: April 11, 2024

Author: Paul Giorgio

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