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M&T, Operation Hope, Big Brothers Big Sisters Join Forces to Host ‘Teach Children to Save Day’ Event

Over the past several years, there has been a nationwide push to implement and promote financial literacy in school systems so that young people are prepared to make well-informed decisions regarding money management and spending habits.

To culminate financial literacy month, M&T Bank partnered with Operation Hope and Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) for Teach Children to Save Day, which is a national event observed annually on April 27. The local get-together featured 20 third and fourth grade students from South Baltimore’s Westport Academy, 20 M&T volunteers and representatives from Operation Hope and BBBS.

According to data cited by M&T, 25 percent of Americans do not have anyone they can ask for trustworthy financial guidance. Organizations such as Operation Hope and M&T are attempting to reverse this trend. 

M&T volunteer and Corey Kennedy of Big Brothers Big Sisters help students complete a financial activity during Teach Children to Save Day at M&T headquarters

“It’s important for us to pour into these young people the financial lessons that will allow them to grow up into financially savvy adults,” said Jim Peterson, who serves as vice president/small business ambassador of M&T Bank.

“We’re just happy to be able to provide a place and a setting to be able to experience this kind of activity.”

In addition to elementary school-aged children, Peterson also works with local high schoolers to instill financial discipline. He was recently at Patterson High School conducting a money management forum, emphasizing the significance of credit, budgeting and saving, he said.

“We teach financial literacy in these schools because we want these young people to get these lessons. They may not be ready for it yet, but if they hear it enough, eventually it will become a habit and then they’ll be financially literate adults,” Peterson said.

The event, which lasted about an hour and a half, was held at M&T’s regional headquarters at 1 Light Street in downtown Baltimore, where students were taught age-appropriate lessons on finances, the importance of saving, ‘needs’ as opposed to ‘wants’ and more.

M&T volunteer and Corey Kennedy of Big Brothers Big Sisters help students complete a financial activity during Teach Children to Save Day at M&T headquarters

Some of the day’s hands-on activities included financial word search puzzles, financial literacy bingo and decorating M&T-branded piggy banks, among others. 

For nearly a decade, M&T Bank has partnered with Operation Hope and BBBS for numerous events that empower the next generation of local youth and allows M&T employees to volunteer their time and expertise to introduce students to banking tools that will help carve a path to financial security and independence. 

The three organizations acknowledge the profound importance of financial literacy education at an early age. Youngsters learning money management skills and knowledge will likely lead to more positive outcomes in adulthood.

“The event turned out phenomenally,” said Corey Kennedy, a program site specialist for Big Brothers Big Sisters, an organization facilitated locally through the YMCA of Central Maryland.

“The kids loved it; they learned a lot. The mentors enjoyed working with the kids,” Kennedy said.

“The kids walked away with physical takeaways and knowledgeable things that they can take home and to their schools.”

Seeing children grasp banking terms and concepts, along with going home with Baltimore Ravens hats and M&T piggy banks, were the two highlights of the day in Kennedy’s estimation.

“There’s so many young people who don’t know the power of financial intelligence and financial knowledge and literacy,” he said. “We think that it’s imperative that at a young age they learn the importance of money.”

Teach Children to Save Day is one of the many financial education-oriented functions that M&T hosts on a regular basis, Peterson added.

Correspondingly, Cassandra Ferguson of Operation Hope said the much-needed partnership aims to bridge the gap for things that aren’t taught in schools about finances. Prior to BBBS joining the partnership, Operation Hope collaborated with M&T for financial literacy initiatives and projects.

A nonprofit founded in 1992, the Atlanta-based Operation Hope provides financial literacy empowerment and economic education to youth and adults. Hence, events such as Teach Children to Save Day are highly anticipated.

“Better financial decisions are made — we feel like — when we start them at a young age and teach them at a young age,” said Ferguson, the organization’s program manager who trained M&T volunteers to deliver Operation Hope’s financial education curriculum to students during the event.

“The potential I see – as long as [the children] keep that momentum, keep an open mind about learning about finances, I believe that they will be great adults, young adults and even leaders of their families, and they will make great decisions on their finances… some of the mistakes their parents, grandparents or guardians may have made about finances, they won’t make those mistakes.”

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