By JAMES NELDON – Leader Publications Contributor
CASSOPOLIS — In the halls of Sam Adams Elementary school, students gather their change together in excitement. Rather than spending it on small trinkets and treats at the Ranger shop, however, they now have the opportunity to invest in their own futures. They get the opportunity to do so through the Cass County Kickstart to Careers, a program created for students of Cassopolis schools.
In 2019, the organization launched by opening child savings accounts for incoming kindergarten students, starting off with an initial $25 investment from Cass Kickstart to open the account. The goal behind these investments is to provide future financial stability for students as they head to future secondary education such as college or trade school programs. The organization is now looking to highlight alumni of Cassopolis schools who have achieved success through that pursuit of higher education.
“We’ve been brainstorming on trying to get the community involved,” said Becky Moore, vice president and treasurer of the Cass Kickstart to Careers board. “We just think that someone from Cassopolis, sharing with the kids, might further motivate them to do whatever they aspire to.”
The program allows former alumni to fill out a survey on the Cass Kickstart website and share their stories, and in turn, enables program organizers to build a collection of former Rangers to spotlight. The submissions will be published on the Cass Kickstart website as testimonials to highlight the value of secondary education.
Organizers also hope to invite alumni to speak in classrooms throughout the district in order to tie real-life examples into the lessons students are learning.
Cass Kickstart has also collaborated with Cassopolis schools to provide field trip opportunities to kindergarteners. Once a year, students travel to Circle Federal Credit Union, where the accounts have been opened, and learn more about the importance of financial investments. Students are also given bank cards with their names on them, as well as opportunities to see how money is counted and where the money goes when placed into their accounts.
The teachers of Sam Adams Elementary have also taken initiative in supporting the program, as some have created penny jars for classrooms and rewarded students with pennies for good behavior. Since the program launched three years ago, more than 200 accounts have been opened and more than $9,500 has been deposited by parents and students alike.
“At this stage, for young children like this, it’s more about the idea than it is about big dollars,” Moore said. “It’s getting them to understand they have an account and that is what they are saving for.”
Those looking to assist with Cass Kickstart to Careers, whether financially or with the new alumni program, can go to their website to donate or to learn further information about their various programs.