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Tallahassee Financial Literacy Program for Kids Goes International

Tallahassee-Leon Federal Credit Union

A successful Tallahassee-based financial literacy program for kids is going international. Soon, a small delegation from the Capital City will be headed to the Philippines to teach the program to young students in that country.

Tallahassee-Leon Federal Credit Union President and CEO Lisa Brown said the Mini-Billionaires Academy has been around since 2012.

“We realized that in many instances kids are not provided with the basic information of how to run their personal financial lives as adults,” Brown noted. “We see it every single day with adults walking in the door with questions and feeling uncertain about how to take control of their financial future. So we recognized this as a need. The camp has grown from a very small day camp now to an overnight camp – typically a six-night stay – at Camp Wallwood in Gadsden County.”

Camp participants range in age from 8 to 16. “Dawson” has been through the program and is now a program leader and counselor. “I was maybe 12 at the time of first exposure to the camp, so I really didn’t have much touch into that field yet. But definitely moving into the teen years I do see these things and how they’ve affected me positively. I have a job now, so how to fill out a W-2, W-4, that kind of stuff is what I’ve learned through the camp,” he said.

One of the learning experiences involved competitive teams setting up make-believe businesses. “Lauren” is now also a program leader and counselor.  As a camp participant, her team’s business was making and selling s’mores.

“We presented the s’mores and we put them on a very decorative plate and we had the marshmallow fluff in a martini glass with graham cracker on the rim,” she explained.

By selling the product’s figurative sizzle as well as the steak, her team was successful in the competition. The program, said Lisa Brown, was also a success for Tallahassee-Leon Federal Credit Union when it came to attracting national recognition.

“The credit union actually won two national awards for financial education for kids, which of course we’re super proud of, but it was through that that we had some interest internationally to participate,” she said.

So the local program is now headed to the Philippines. Brown will head up the four-member delegation, which will include Lauren and Dawson. From November 11th through the 29th, they’ll first be teaching entrepreneurship and marketing in the town of Cebu. Then they’ll head to Mandaue to teach personal finance. Lauren, whose family is of Philippine origin, has some very personal excitement about being part of the experience.

“I made this joke with my mom when she said, ‘Your grandma’s going to go back home because they call the Philippines home because that’s where they’re from.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I’ve never been there, so I guess I’m homeless!’ she laughed. “So to be there for the first time I’m very excited and very excited to experience the culture and connect with my roots.”

Dawson is enthused about the prospect of bringing so much of what he’s learned to a fresh and eager audience. “This program, especially in places like Davao City, Mandaue and Cebu as well, it’s going to be beyond hope for people, especially these youth that are wanting to break out and go to college and bring it back to their communities,” he said.

Brown believes the education will flow in both directions.

“You’ll learn far more than you could ever could share and teach. So I think the initial thought is, ‘We have so much and we want to share.’ But I think what we’re probably going to come out of this with is inspiration beyond measure for ways to improve our camp and ways to work together.”

The International iteration of the Mini Billionaires Academy takes flight from Tallahassee on November 11th.

“Total travel time there is just shy of 30 hours,” Brown smiled.

Brown and her academy colleagues promise they’ll share their stories upon their return to Tallahassee at the end of the month.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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