Several years ago, Anne Yeoman had an idea: she wanted to establish an organization that would give students the tools to make sound financial decisions, now and in the future, and allow them to build savings while in high school.
The organization would also reach beyond just providing money by teaching people in Rappahannock County about managing finances. After years of working with children’s savings accounts and financial education, Yeoman knew the huge positive impact that this program could have.
Shannon Grimsley, the superintendent for Rappahannock County Public Schools, was enthusiastic about the idea. “I heard Anne speak at a Headwaters meeting about college savings accounts and immediately sought her out after the meeting to discuss how a program like this could fit into our Profile of a Graduate conceptual framework,” Grimsley said.
In March 2019, Yeoman and other community members collaborated to officially begin a nonprofit called FamilyFutures. With the mantra “Grow Today for Tomorrow," FamilyFutures emphasizes teaching youth about finances beginning in kindergarten. Their program, MyFuture, works in the public schools in our county.
“It was sort of like the planets aligned,” Yeoman said of the introduction into the schools. “The state had just expanded career exploration mandates down into kindergarten.” One alluring aspect of MyFuture is the opportunities students have to earn money that will later be invested in their post-high school plans. In January 2020, the MyFuture program began with individual savings accounts being opened at Oak View National Bank for each kindergartener from the class of 2032.
Headwaters seeded the first $100 deposit for every student. The same process has been followed for each kindergarten class since then. Financial Education Coordinator Jenny Kapsa and Program Assistant Lacey Jenkins work within the schools to provide the kids with earning opportunities. After the first $100 in their account, students have the opportunity to earn up to $100 more each year by completing up to five activities, each worth $20. The activities vary by grade level and incorporate what the kids are learning in school. This includes mastering sight words, participating in a classroom activity with MyFuture staff, and achieving in-school star behavior.
Parents can also help their students earn funds by completing activities like reading a book to their child, opening a 529 savings account, or liking the FamilyFutures Facebook page. As of this year, there are 164 active accounts through MyFuture, with an average balance of $200. Altogether, students have a combined balance of $33,738. By the time they graduate, each student could potentially have upward of $1,500 in their savings account.
Although there are around 90 other programs similar to MyFuture in the United States, Rappahannock’s is set apart by the way that money from the savings account can be spent. Most child savings accounts (CSA) require that the savings go toward post-secondary education. However, because MyFuture accounts are not officially CSA, students don’t necessarily have to spend their savings on education after they graduate from high school. Yeoman and others involved in the FamilyFutures carefully crafted this to benefit students.
Because FamilyFutures began recently, organizers still have time to decide exactly how post-graduation planning will go. Tentatively, seniors will present an outline for their intentions after high school; this could include putting their money towards college or a trade school, buying work tools, acquiring licensing to begin a job, or even starting a retirement fund.
The stipulation is that students must use the money to help themselves reach their goals and be financially stable.
Ironically, the target of MyFuture, and FamilyFutures overall, is not the savings accounts. “Savings are a tool to help students attain life skills,” Yeoman explained. This can be seen in the details of the MyFuture work with the kids. Money is used as an incentive as students learn about setting priorities, planning, and making good choices. These “essential skills” set students up to succeed and become more capable adults.
Yeoman believes strongly in the decision-making abilities this program provides. “MyFuture reinforces the idea that you can make choices and have an impact on your life,” she said. This philosophy is applied to the programs that FamilyFutures runs for both youth and adults. The overarching goal is to give people tools to make good decisions, not only in finances but in all aspects of life.
Likewise, Shannon Grimsley has seen the influence MyFuture has on students in RCPS. “MyFuture helps students tangibly see their own efforts pay off and see how this concept applies to planning for the future,” she said. “Developing these skills early is essential to cultivating lifelong habits that translate to responsible citizenship and economic stability.”
The FamilyFutures organization, and the MyFuture program in particular, has brought access to financial education for students, individuals, and families in Rappahannock County. More importantly, it has armed community members with life skills that allow them to progress and use their abilities to their greatest benefit. As Grimsley said, “We are so fortunate to have such a program.”
The writer is a Rappahannock County High School senior and a Headwaters Foundation writing intern.
Mail checks to: Family Futures, Box 570, Sperryville, VA 22740
FamilyFutures is a tax exempt charity under Section 501(c)3.
Gifts are fully deductible as allowed by law. Please consult your tax adviser.
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