Bernestine Williams really has a heart for children. As a financial literacy educator, she volunteers at Urban Preparatory Academy in Wichita teaching kindergarten to eighth-grade students the importance of learning about finances.
“This is my fourth year and I love what I do,” she says.
Williams spends a lot of time teaching through repetition, music and hands-on activities. She says when students get it, it’s priceless.
“We played this one game where they were paying bills,” Williams says, “literally paying the mortgage and paying the rent and paying the gas and their cell phone bills.”
Williams teaches several areas of finance.
“We start with saving and do the things that are necessary to say why they save,” she says. “Goal setting and spending come last. We talk about investing, and we talk about giving and charity.”
Williams says the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will learn about investing when they return from holiday break.
“They’ll actually be investing in different companies, on a pretend level of course, and we teach decision making and insurance concepts," she says." To the older kids, we teach risk management and the difference between a credit card and a debit card.”
Williams is a former educator and small business owner. She has a passion for the children and showing the steps to manage money. She’s taught financial literacy since 2005.
“I was working for the 'Parents as Teachers' program in Kansas City and that’s where I got my training as a financial literacy expert,” she says. “The program that we initially launched was a program for lower-income families because some people think that if they are not making a lot of money, they can’t budget, save and invest. But the curriculum we were trained on was specifically designed for lower-income families, and so that’s really when I knew I had to get the word out because young people want to learn. They want to know about money.”
Students in her second- and third-grade class agree.
“The thing that I like about financial literacy is we get to invest, save and spend, and you can also be an entrepreneur,” says second-grade student Xavier Ellis.
Teaching financial literacy is important, and Williams says she committed to the students by volunteering to do it.
“It’s probably the number one skill that children will be able to take beyond high school," she says. “I also do it because I know that if I start early enough and give back, the skills and the concepts that I teach them will go with them for life.”
Carla Eckels is director of cultural diversity and the host of Soulsations. Follow her on Twitter @Eckels.
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