The Gift of Financial Wellness
Knowing that financial literacy should be an essential skill for every member of a community, Regions Bank recently committed to making it a reality for more students. The bank’s $25,000 gift benefits a growing summer program for high school students at the Haslam College of Business with this goal in mind.
A residential program designed to introduce diverse high school students to the field of business and related careers, Business Education for Talented Students (BETS) has hosted more than 300 high school students from eight states since its inception in 2008. The program targets underrepresented high school seniors from across the region that meet specific academic and leadership standards. Students selected to participate receive room and board, meals, books, and other supplies during their 12-day stay on campus. The program boasts a strong correlation with success, with 41 percent of its participants going on to attend the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, thus far.
Supporting the program was a natural fit for Regions Bank. “Our main pillars of giving are economic community development, financial wellness, and education, with a focus on workforce development,” Rob Stivers, market executive at Regions in Knoxville, says. “This project meshes well with those goals and allows us to bring our strengths to the table.”
DEVELOPING KEY LIFE SKILLS
Today’s high school students face a confusing landscape of college applications and student loans if they want to pursue higher education. For first-generation students or those without financial help from family members, the prospect can be overwhelming.
BETS has always brought students to campus with the goal of acclimating them to the university environment and encouraging them to pursue further education. Now, the program is adding an additional component. “With the Regions gift, we’re extending by two days to include a longer section on financial literacy,” says Tracie Woidtke, finance department head and David E. Sharp/ Home Federal Bank Professor in Banking & Finance. “The new materials will cover the basics of personal finance as well as how to fund college. Students will learn how to evaluate financial aid opportunities with long-term goals in mind.”
From budgeting skills to credit scores, the new modules will prepare students to tackle the financial decisions they will encounter as adults. The Department of Finance faculty has developed a personal finance course that they plan to adapt for the program. “We’re hoping to develop more online modules that can be used in BETS and other settings,” says Woidtke. “Ultimately, we want students to come away with a clear view of the types of financial aid available and how to use them in a healthy way. These are important life skills.”
A GIFT TO THE COMMUNITY
Financial health is a key factor in overall wellness. “When we help people with their financial decisions, we can reduce a lot of stress throughout our community,” says Stivers, “and if young people start early, they’ll build good habits that will stay with them for life.”
Leaders at Regions Bank recognize the importance of giving their time and expertise in addition to funding the program. “Our associates are committed to remaining a part of this program,” Stivers says. “We have a lot of Haslam alumni among us, and we want to maintain those close connections to the college. By impacting the next generation, we are investing in our future workforce and in our entire community.”