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 4.4 million students per year. BOK Financial Corporation Group employees volunteer with JA in every market across its eight-state footprint to teach work-readiness programs, career exploration events, financial literacy sessions, interview skill practice, leadership workshops and more.
In Oklahoma, the company recently contributed $350,000 to build Experiential Learning Labs in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The innovative facilities will be an educational resource both for urban and rural Oklahoma students, providing an immersive environment where they can gain invaluable skills and practical knowledge.
“As a financial institution, we know the importance of empowering young people in our communities to pursue their dreams, no matter how big,” said Stacy Kymes, president and CEO of BOK Financial. “We also know that some students simply need an opportunity to engage in activities that expose them to financial topics—and Junior Achievement does an excellent job of presenting those opportunities.”
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. More than half of the parents surveyed for T. Rowe Price's 14th Annual Parents, Kids & Money survey said they were extremely, very, or somewhat reluctant to discuss financial matters with their child.
"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 inspire
Learn 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."
Many company volunteers support the program on an ongoing basis and will have new facilities for even more long-term programming coming soon. The Oklahoma City Experiential Learning Lab campus is expected to open during the 2024-25 school year. The state-of-the-art facility will be the permanent home for Finance Park, a program for high school students to learn about personal financial planning and career exploration with a simulation to practice developing and sticking to a personal budget using real-life scenarios. The project in Tulsa will begin after the Oklahoma City Experiential Lab is complete.
“We are so proud to invest in these projects to build innovative learning labs in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City. These facilities will provide outstanding access for students,” Kymes said. “I’m especially excited to see our employees volunteer to support these and many other JA programs that provide practical experience to help prepare our youth for a better future.”
Learn more about BOK Financial's community involvement in the Community Report.