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UMFK AND ACADIA FCU TO LAUNCH FINANCIAL LITERACY PROGRAM

June 6, 2011

NR11065

The University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK) and Acadia Federal Credit Union (AFCU) today announced a partnership that will provide financial literacy education to students and parents throughout the St. John Valley.   

The UMFK/AFCU Financial Literacy Program will be launched this fall under the leadership of Scott Voisine, UMFK’s dean of students. Voisine will work in partnership with AFCU Administration and staff and with a soon-to-be-hired Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) coordinator, who will be located at UMFK.
 
The financial literacy program will include three components, which will targetelementary, middle school, and high school students. 
 
By combining human and fiscal resources, UMFK and AFCU will strive to address and enhance the financial literacy needs of area students.  The partnership with local schools also will provide students and their teachers with curricular tools and presentations on financial literacy.  The intent of the program is to involve teachers in the development of the program.
 
In its 2007 report, From High School to College:  Removing Barriers for Maine Students, the Mitchell Institute in Maine highlighted the lack of early college savings, and the lack of knowledge or trepidation about the federal financial aid process as a key barrier to higher education attainment in the State.  Initiatives such as the NextGen College Savings Accounts and the additional support of the Harold Alfond College Challenge Grants in Maine have been crucial in emphasizing the importance of beginning the process of college saving at a very early point in one’s life. 
 
The financial literacy program builds upon established initiatives of the UMFK College Community Project. Those initiatives will serve as springboards for UMFK, AFCU, and area schools to develop a program for students in the St. John Valley to improve their higher education aspirations, and recognize the importance of financial literacy and financial aid as ways to overcome barriers.
 
President and CEO of Acadia FCU, David Desjardins, said: “We are very excited to be able to partner with UMFK and tap their educational expertise to help teach our young people the financial skills they need to succeed in life.” 
 
AFCU is a member-owned financial institution with more than $95 million in assets and 8,600 members. It serves its members from three offices located in Fort Kent, Madawaska, and St. Francis, and also on-line at www.acadiafcu.org
 
Desjardins went on to say, “Part of our mission here at Acadia is to invest in our local communities. What better way to invest in our local communities than to invest in our local students; our future generation. We want to give them the tools and skills necessary to make smart financial choices in life!” 
 
Since 2005, UMFK and its educational partners throughout the Valley have embarked on the development of a number of programs that have focused on providing college readiness, college awareness, and college learning opportunities to the entire community. 
 
The UMFK College Community Project is a collection of six programs that represent a lifespan of college readiness and learning opportunities for community members.   The project takes a “cradle to grave” approach and brings together UMFK, public schools, and local adult education programs to provide young children, teens, adults, and seniors the opportunity to participate in college readiness and dynamic learning programs.  
 
The programs represented in the UMFK College Community Project include: KinderKollege, Middle School U, Early College, College Access Program, College 101 for Parents, and Senior College.   
 
In 2008, the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) awarded Voisine its annual Dirigo Award,in recognition of the importance and success of the UMFK College Community Project. He is the principle administrator of the project.
 
While the College Community Project is encompassing of many best practices related to college awareness, aspirations, and transition at all points of the lifelong learning continuum, the project has yet to address one of the key barriers to college attainment in Maine: the lack of financial literacy and the lack of knowledge about financial aid. 
 
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The UMFK College Community Project has always focused on the importance of encouraging early exploration of educational opportunities.  KinderKollege and Middle School U are examples of programs that focus on aspirations in early elementary and middle school.  This project will build upon the successes of KinderKollege and Middle School U and will focus on the idea that financial literacy, saving money, and preparing financially for the future is a key component to attaining a post-secondary education.  The UMFK/AFCU partnership will support the development of two, new programs: Benny Banks, a money savings program for second grade students, and the Dollars and $ense Financial Fair for 6th grade students.
          
 
Benny Banksis a program intended for all second graders in the St. John Valley.  All of these students already had the opportunity to participate in KinderKollege and have learned about the importance of post-secondary attainment.  Benny Banks will add a layer to that learning; a layer focused on saving money as a means to help get to college.  UMFK will partner with Acadia Federal Credit Union in Fort Kent to train and deploy UMFK Elementary Education majors and AFCU staff to all St. John Valley second grade classrooms to present lessons on the importance of saving money and why that is important for anyone who wants to go to college.  The school children will all receive a piggy bank, a coloring and activity book on saving money, a small box of crayons, and a poster with the Benny Banks logo.  The poster will also include a website address that students can go to and play financial games meant for young learners.  These games can be downloaded from a number of national bank websites and will be linked to the UMFK web page; thus allowing for continued educational opportunities for these students.  Approximately 225 students will be served by this program.
           
 
The Dollars & $ense Financial Fairfor 6th grade students will serve approximately 225 St. John Valley 6th graders.  UMFK will partner with AFCU to develop a day-long financial fair for all St. John Valley 6th graders on the UMFK campus.  The fair will include games and activities focused on saving money, banking, part-time jobs, allowances, and other financial topics.  In addition, students will be engaged in activities, tours, and events related to what college is all about.  UMFK student volunteers and AFCU employees will help in the staffing and development of the fair.
 
FAME and other institutions have emphasized the importance of increasing the number of high school students who complete the FAFSA form.  The FAFSA can be an intimidating endeavor for students, their parents, and adult learners. 
 
The FAFSAmbassadorsprogram will train and deploy UMFK Business Management majors to St. John Valley communities to provide one-on-one assistance with the FAFSA.  The program is modeled after other business schools that utilize students to help community members with federal income tax forms.  The project coordinator will work with local schools and adult education programs and will plan, staff, and implement FAFSAmbassadors days and evenings in a number of St. John Valley communities.  FAFSAmbassadors will also set up live chat times on Facebook and other social media sites for high school students to log into and get live help with the FAFSA.  These events will be announced and “kicked off” during College Bowl Sunday.  The goal of the program is to serve 100 St. John Valley high school students, parents, and adult learners.
 
All of the activities in the UMFK/AFCU Financial Literacy Program include opportunities for experiential learning for UMFK students.  UMFK’s current strategic plan emphasizes the importance of the inclusion of experiential learning opportunities in all majors as a means of improving student learning, engagement and success.  As previously explained, this project will include Elementary Education majors as instructors in the Benny Banks program, a wide variety of students in the Dollars and $ense Financial Fair, and Business Management majors as FAFSAmbassadors.  The opportunities for college students presented in this project will be valuable additions to the internships, service learning, and hands-on educational opportunities for UMFK students.