Call: 269-409-1254
P.O. Box 63, Cassopolis, MI 49031

Cass Kickstart to Teach Kindergartners Financial Planning – by Sarah Culton

CASSOPOLIS — Five-year-old Kingden Baucom loves to save money.

According to his mother, Ashli Hickman, the incoming Sam Adams Elementary School kindergarten student has nearly $50 saved, hidden in a “secret spot” in his room.

Now, Baucom will have a chance to save for his future thanks to a new project being launched at Cassopolis Public Schools this fall.

Cass Kickstart to careers, a new local program, will provide all incoming Sam Adams Elementary kindergarten students with interest-bearing child savings accounts with an initial deposit of $25. The project, which is meant to help children begin saving for post-secondary education, will encourage students and families to make deposits into the bank account throughout the student’s school career, and additional financial incentives may be awarded to students who achieve academic or attendance goals.

The funds put into the CSAs will not be available to students until they graduate high school, and families can opt-out of the program if they choose to do so.

Cass Kickstart has been made possible through a partnership between the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation, Cassopolis Public Schools, Greater Niles Community Federal Credit Union, and the Cass Kickstart Committee.

“There was a real need for children in the community to have an opportunity to save for post-secondary education that they were not getting, and child savings accounts — known as CSAs — are a way to provide that,” said Jim Ward, a member of the Cass Kickstart committee. “We talk a lot about college, but [the accounts] are not just for college. They can be used for trade school or anything that is post-secondary education. This gives the students the opportunity to make choices.”

According to the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation, children with CSAs are four times more likely to pursue post-secondary education those without. Because of this, members of the Cass Kickstart Committee chose to award the accounts to kindergarten students as they believe starting at a young age will give children a higher chance of success.

“We want to educate them early about the advantages of saving for the future. It’s a skill that has to be taught,” said committee member Margie Yarger. “It becomes a project for the whole family to build this account for the student. … It gives children the mindset that they can save.”

The parents of students receiving the CSAs are hopeful that the accounts will help ease the financial burden that post-secondary education can create.

“I think it is nice because I think a lot of times people don’t think about how much money is needed for higher education,” Hickman said. “I think it is good to start young. I think it will be good to teach [my son] how to command money. He already likes to save money, so this will be one more step to teach him how to become an adult.”

Deanna Lambert, the mother of incoming kindergarten student, Eli, recently graduated with a master’s degree. Because of this, she said she knows first-hand how expensive college can be.

“I currently have crazy amounts of student loans, and I don’t want my son to have to deal with that later,” Lambert said. “I think this is a wonderful program because people need to get started saving as soon as possible to make sure their children have money for college.”

As the program launches, Cass Kickstart Committee members said they are excited to see the way it will provide for both students and the community.

“Kids saving for the future? That is a gift for the whole community,” Yarger said. “We want our students to prosper.”