SPOTLIGHT: “GRANDMA’S ALWAYS GONNA FIND A WAY”

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When It Comes to Her Grandkids’ College Dreams, “Grandma’s Always Gonna Find a Way” Like many of us, Charlene Jackson dreamed of a secure retirement. After spending years working for the City of St. Louis Department of Parks and Recreation, Charlene hadn’t amassed a fortune, but she had saved enough to make her confident that her retirement dream would become a reality. But that confidence diminished when she was granted custody of her two grandchildren, Camiyah and Camori.

Charlene would be the first to tell you that raising Camiyah and Camori was a blessing. However, the prospect of providing for them after having already raised two children of her own had her questioning: How would she save for retirement and give Camiyah and Camori the life they deserve? And, in the long run, how would Charlene finance her grandchildren’s college dreams so they could have a better life than the generation before them?

Fortunately, Charlene’s confidence began to build when the St. Louis Office of Financial Empowerment launched the College Kids program. College Kids opens a children’s savings account for every kindergartener in the school district and seeds it with an initial deposit. Then, when families make deposits into the accounts, those deposits are matched, and the savings grow until the child is ready to use it for tuition or books or room and board.

As luck would have it, Camiyah was in kindergarten when College Kids launched, and Camori was only a year behind. Now, both of Charlene’s grandchildren have a savings account into which they make regular deposits. Although these deposits are small—Camiyah and Camori aren’t bringing in the big bucks just yet—they’re enough to help them set positive habits early about saving for the future. And, whereas college might have seemed out of reach and thus far from everyday conversation, the value of education is now a regular feature at the dinner table.

Of course, College Kids isn’t just helping Camiyah and Camori establish good habits—the program is also helping Charlene take control of her financial life. By participating in Family Savings Nights, attending credit classes and meeting with a financial coach—all of which she learned about through the College Kids program—Charlene is well on her way to securing her retirement, and her grandkids’ college dreams.

So many children have the will and the grades to go to college, Charlene notes, but so few have the money. When it comes to Camiyah and Camori, she says, she worried they may find themselves in the same situation. But now, with a little help from College Kids, she says, “Grandma’s always gonna find a way.”

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