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Korean guest observes teens' finance lessons
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Efforts to teach Mississippi youth financial responsibility have attracted international attention and may help educate South Korean society in many of the same important life lessons.
"Money Matters: Financial Literacy Seminars for High School Students" workshops are being held around the state between September and April. Seminars are sponsored by the Mississippi Jump$tart Coalition and the Office of the Mississippi Secretary of State. The Mississippi State University Extension Service and BancorpSouth are also actively involved.
The effort has attracted attention from as far away as South Korea. Television producer Sunghan Lee attended the first seminar this fall held in Hattiesburg. Lee learned of the program as a result of an Internet search for information on financial education for young people. He found a news article on the joint efforts by MSU's Extension Service and the Jump$tart Coalition, then placed a phone call to Susan Cosgrove, the contact name listed.
"Much like Americans, young Koreans are encountering more debt problems than the previous generation," said Cosgrove, Extension area family resource management agent. "These seminars offer plenty of insight into the problems our children are facing and how we are trying to help them avoid financial pitfalls."
Cosgrove also serves as vice president of the Mississippi Jump$tart Coalition, a national non-profit organization that officially founded a Mississippi branch in 2000. Its mission is to improve the personal financial literacy of Mississippi's youth by teaching money management skills and making financial resources available to the state's teachers.
In Hattiesburg, Lee videotaped interviews with teachers, organizers and supporters of the program, as well as portions of the seminar. He intends to prepare a 60-minute documentary for the 20 million viewers of the Korean Broadcasting System. The program will promote money management in homes and schools.
The Hattiesburg workshop included an overview of financial issues, credit cards, loans, identity theft, scams and investments. Presenters stressed the importance of budgeting, record keeping, goal setting and discipline.
"Never spend more money than you have. That is the key to financial happiness," retired professor Jim Robertson told the students.
While students were encouraged to become financially literate, their teachers took part in discussions on various curricula available to teach financial lessons.
Danette Blackwell, a business and computer technology teacher at Hattiesburg High School, provided curricula overviews, online resources and handouts for the teachers. Originally enlisted by Cosgrove to teach a Web-based program for teachers last summer, Blackwell has become a reluctant authority on personal finance curricula.
"Last year was my first year in the classroom, and I was desperate for resources. I discovered and liked an interactive, Web-based software program called Consumer Jungle. The opportunities for me to learn and teach snowballed from that point," Blackwell said. "MSU's Extension Service has been a great resource for teachers needing information for teaching personal finance."
Blackwell has been able to get her students involved in teaching as well. After the Hattiesburg conference, she welcomed the Korean video producer into her classroom where he filmed Blackwell and her students as part of the documentary.
"Students learn more anytime you can get them actively involved in a lesson," Blackwell said. "They are currently scheduled to teach a workshop to other students during an upcoming job fair."
Cosgrove said Money Matters pulls together community resources to help teach the students outside the classroom.
"Speakers come from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. Personal finance issues encompass a huge variety of topics. We want to relate our learning objectives to everyday financial problems," Cosgrove said. "Many of the lessons taught in the teachers' conference can be taught in other classes, not just finance class."
For more information on the Money Matters programs around the state, visit the Mississippi Jump$tart Coalition's website at http://www.msjumpstart.org.