Over the course of 12 days this month and into December, business people in our community are spending more than 800 hours with Manatee County high school seniors. This involvement is focused on giving these young people a glimpse of the realities they'll face as young adults, and it's through a program of the Manatee Chamber Foundation called "The Big Bank Theory."
More than 2,500 students at all six public high schools have the opportunity to participate in an activity that exposes them to the financial realities of being a young adult. I'd argue that financial literacy skills have a life-altering effect similar to "reading, writing and arithmetic" skills. Empowering young people with the ability to manage money and plan for the future is critical to their success -- and the success of our community and country.
The Chamber Foundation has 198 different business volunteers involved with "The Big Bank Theory" program over these six weeks. They will interact with more than 100 high school classes.
At the start of the program each student receives a "profile" that reflects their education/training level, job, salary and family demographics. Each profile reflects the wide range of "realities" in the life of a 25-year old. Some find themselves with a well-paying job and few initial obligations outside of their control. Others find themselves with a family to support without the financial cushion of more than an entry-level salary. Others fall somewhere in-between. Each student visits thirteen different "storefronts" where they must secure housing, transportation, utilities, childcare (if required), insurance, clothing, entertainment, groceries and more. There's even a "That's Life" station where they rely on the "luck of the draw" for those unexpected financial situations that we all face. Some find themselves with a flat tire that needs repair, others receive a nice cash birthday gift.
As a volunteer for the past several years, I can tell you the proverbial light bulbs are turn
ing on all over that high school gymnasium as the students complete the additions and subtractions on their budget worksheets after each station. Most must revisit decisions that they made early on in the activity and reprioritize.
The commitment the business volunteers make to helping the Chamber Foundation present "The Big Bank Theory" is substantial and they all deserve a big "thank you!" Programs like this represent an important partnership with our school district and I encourage you to consider ways that you can make an impact for the benefit of local students. Efforts large and small can make a huge difference! If you'd like more information on how to partner with a local school, please contact Jahna Leinhauser at the Manatee Chamber of Commerce at 941-748-3411.
Bob Bartz, president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at 941-748-3411 or BobB@ManateeChamber.com.