1,200 participate in events during Money Smart Week


Mary Beth Henning, Center of Economic Education co-director, holds up a children’s book called “Isabel’s Car Wash” and discusses ways to introduce children to finance and the concept of saving, working and entrepreneurship Monday at the Community Coordinated Child Care Building, 155 N. Third St.

By Shikha Duttyal

Workshops on fiscal management taught students and locals to manage money during Money Smart Week.

The DeKalb County Cash Coalition, led by NIU’s Financial Literacy Collaborative, Kishwaukee United Way and Econ Illinois, partnered to bring the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s national Money Smart Week program to DeKalb County.

Money Smart Week was created by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in 2002. Since then, hundreds of organizations across the country have stressed the importance of financial literacy by informing consumers through educational seminars and activities throughout the week.

Organizations across DeKalb County presented 60 free Smart Money Week Programs on financial literacy tools, topics and resources. More than 1,200 people participated in the programs and workshops held throughout the week, compared to last year’s 30 programs with about 150 participants.

“It was about bringing financial literacy to the community,” said Randi Napientek, assistant director of the Office of Student Academic Success. “Decisions you make now impact your future.”

Financial Cents, a part of the Office of Student Academic Success, partnered with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Money Smart Week to present financial information geared toward college students.

Caileen Brett, senior elementary education major, said she was happy with Money Smart Week and wants similar events in the future.

“I wasn’t taught anything in … high school. I had to write my own checks and learn it in the hard way,” Brett said. “It’s super beneficial that we are learning things for life that our education doesn’t ask us to learn.”

The most popular Money Smart Week event was at Genoa Kingston Middle School, 941 W. Main St. in Genoa, where about 514 students participated in the Junior Achievement workshop. Peer educators from Financial Cents and a group of Northern Lights Ambassadors taught financial awareness to help young people develop the confidence and competence to make smart academic and economic decisions.

Nilay Patel, assistant and supervisor of the Office of Student Academic Success, served as a peer educator at Genoa Kingston Middle School. Volunteers participated in the Reverse Job Shadow program, where peer educators talked about their NIU experience, their major and what their plans are after graduation.

“‘What’s a typical day in college?’ was a typical question asked to us by students,” Patel said. “The teachers of the school, present during the session, loved it, and they want to extend it [to] next year, as well.”

Patel said volunteers advised sixth- and seventh-grade students to focus on one major they were interested in and begin saving money to apply for scholarships and grants.

“The whole community and university together was a huge help. It was a great support from sponsors, and we are definitely planning on doing [Money Smart Week] 2015,” Napientek said.