For some students, a conversation about budgeting can inspire a new life plan. BOK Financial® Consumer Learning Consultant Kristin Moore has witnessed it first-hand while volunteering with Junior Achievement (JA) in local Tulsa classrooms.
"When we talk to kids about budgeting, we ask them what they want to do when they graduate," said Moore. "It opens up the conversation about career goals and the importance of advanced degrees. You see their eyes open. It's so rewarding to see the student walk out with a new spark and a plan."
JA partners with schools and volunteers from the local community to deliver lessons on financial literacy, work and career readiness, and entrepreneurship to millions of students across the country. Nationally, JA reaches over 3 million students per year.
BOK Financial and its affiliates are actively engaged with Junior Achievement across its eight-state footprint. In Tulsa, BOK Financial sponsors JA Finance Park, a program for high school students to learn about personal financial planning and career exploration. Finance Park is a simulation that allows them to practice developing and sticking to a personal budget using real-life scenarios. BOK Financial volunteers like Moore use the day to help students understand the opportunities ahead of them.
"At Finance Park, I'm always looking for that one kid that needs someone to tell them they can go to college," Moore said. "It's an opportunity to help them understand that they can own and navigate their future outside of their current circumstances. It's something that's always been a passion for me."
Sharing the tools for economic mobility
Thomas Hay, chief operating officer at BOK Financial's Consumer Bank and JA Oklahoma board member, didn't learn financial literacy or career planning from his parents.
"It wasn't something we talked about at home," said Hay.
His experience isn't unique. Half of the children surveyed for T. Rowe Price's 11th Annual Parents, Kids & Money Survey said they wished their parents taught them more about money.
"College seemed unattainable until my neighbor asked about my goals after high school and pushed me to see that I could have more for my life," he said. "I support JA because I want to do everything I can to provide that same encouragement to other young people."
JA fills the knowledge gap that Hay experienced. Beginning with kindergartners, their multi-grade curriculum focuses on critical life skills not often taught in schools. Their approach is working—research shows that program alumni are more likely to have a college degree, feel confident managing money, have career success, and start a business as an adult.
"Education and financial literacy are great equalizers of opportunity," said Marty Grunst, BOK Financial chief risk officer and JA board member. "JA offers all students the skills to be more employment-ready after graduation. It has an incrementally greater impact on children who don't learn this vital information elsewhere."
JA and Learn for Life—aligning to inspireLearn for Life, BOK Financial's company-wide financial education program, partners with JA to deploy employee volunteers across the country. Through activities including games, simulation and classroom education, students ages 5 to 18 create a foundation for a healthy financial future and lead successful lives.
"One of BOK Financial's pillars is advancing the communities that we serve," Grunst said. "Partnering with JA on Learn for Life is a great way to invest in the future of our community by prioritizing financial education and career readiness for young people."
Employees volunteer with JA in every market to teach work-readiness programs; connect with students at career exploration events; lead financial literacy, interview skills and leadership workshops; and more.
"At BOK Financial, we want to positively impact the communities we serve," Hay said. "We are able to live out our financial mission through our work with JA."
Learn more about BOK Financial's community involvement in their Community Report.