City of Miami Teaching Students Language of Personal Finance

Summer jobs programs for high school kids have been around forever. The City of Miami, however, has one with a different twist. Its Summer Youth Employment and Financial Empowerment Program teaches 150 kids the language of personal finance.

"The whole focus is to teach ‘em money skills, so we want them to get on direct deposit, things that you and I take for granted, how to go to a bank account, budgeting, how to use a checking account, how to withdraw the money they need on a weekly basis,” explained William Porro, the city’s Special Projects Administrator.

The city recruits students from high schools within the city, including Miami High, Booker T. Washington, Edison, and Jackson high schools. The kids request spots in various city departments, from working inside the administration building to outside jobs with the solid waste department and the city’s marinas.

Using a grant from the Citi Foundation, the city hires them for nine weeks, 39 hours per week, so that the kids make enough money to be forced into making decisions about their earnings.

"It helped me get out of my comfort zone, I’ve never worked before prior to this so it helped me get a feel to what I want to do, it gave me a feel to what I would expect getting a real job,” said Gabriella Duroseau, a student at Booker T. Washington High.

Every student in the program learns a sense of responsibility.

"It really shows me the value of money, how to really save, how to manage your money, and things not to spend on,” said Frank Lopez, who just graduated from Coral Gables High.

His colleague in the program, Nancy Miranda, agreed.

"It shows you responsibility and it gives you really good work experience," Miranda said.

For some of these kids, this is the first time they’ve earned substantial amounts of money, and it has a tangible impact. They need to decide how much to spend, how much to save, and what to buy.

"Last year in the program, I saved up enough money to buy a car, which cost me a thousand dollars, and my goal this year is to move out from Miami to Fort Myers to go to college,” said Anthony Porras, who is working in the city’s recreation department this summer.

That’s another thing they teach the kids, to have a plan, to have a financial savings goal. Whether they’re helping out with payroll or they’re working outside, the summer jobs will have a positive effect long after this season is over. Just being in a professional work environment provides motivation to excel at school.

"I want to save money, I want to be independent, get a job, go to school, I want to be great,” Gabrielle Duroseau said.

Now the city is hoping to expand the program for next year by getting the private sector involved.

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