Delivering the First Debt Free Generation

“What do you want to do? What are your dreams? How are you going to get there?” Natalie Patrizio-Tully, a math teacher at University Neighborhood Middle School, knows how to ask the hard questions. And Elliot Rodriguez, a Credit Do Student Saver and 8th grader, is responding with ambitious goals. Through the guidance of his school and Credit Do, Elliot is creating a working and saving roadmap to college.

Although Elliot wants to play basketball professionally, he also knows that you always have to have a backup plan. His is to start a technology business. Although he’s only in 8th grade, Elliot has started planning early to make this dream a reality. In fact, Elliot’s been looking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “I know that I want to do something in technology. That would be a good school for me, that way I know what to do later on in life.”

Elliot attends a food drive to earn a match into his college savings account.

Elliot attends a food drive to earn a match into his college savings account.

Ms. Patrizio-Tully explains that students feel more ready for high school and college when they have a purpose. Students learn to ask, “Why am I in high school? Why am I in middle school? Ok, it’s to get me up to here. It’s my destination.” Students research tuition prices and fill out a sample FAFSA form to determine the financial aid they’ll receive.v

Credit Do is proud to work with students like Elliot who are planning and saving their way towards college. Our mission is to deliver the first debt-free generation. By training students in financial literacy and giving them opportunities to earn credit through hard work, we set them up to succeed.

In our Smarter Barter™ program, Student Savers complete 7-10 hours of financial education and work a food drive at a local grocery store. They receive a savings tool kit, which we call their business plan. We tell students that they are the C.E.O. of Y.O.U. and ask them, “How are you going to make the business of you a success?” The students receive worksheets on budgeting, goal to mentor pairing, a guardian agreement, and tips on learning, working and saving. Each Student Saver also receives a $50 jump-start towards their deposit-only, educational savings account. Over 95% of the Credit Do Student Savers are eligible for the federal lunch assistance program.

A college savings account helps students create a safety net and guard against debt. The current facts surrounding debt in the United States are staggering. At over one trillion dollars, student loan debt is now larger than the total national credit card debt. The average undergraduate in 2013 finished school with a combined debt of $35,200 from both student loan and credit card debt. These are students who are mortgaging their future to pay for their education.

Ms. Patrizio-Tully reminds us, “When you get thrown out into the college world and you don’t know what to do, there’s not a lot of opportunity to learn it.” I learned this lesson the hard way when, during my freshman year of college, I used a credit card to pay for my textbooks and sparked a chain of mounting debt and bad credit. I started Credit Do to give kids the financial education and savings safety net, helping them avoid a debt story like mine. Credit Do’s Smarter Barter harnesses the power of community, and the life values that most of us have grown up with but have been obscured in the selling of the fast, new, and immediate. With dedicated partner schools like the University Neighborhood Middle School, teachers like Ms. Patrizio-Tully, engaged parents, and consistent opportunities to learn, work and save we can find our way back to those values. We can save for ourselves and take the steps to affording our essentials to college and beyond.

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