GARY │ A week of events designed to educate Northwest Indiana consumers about money management and create awareness of financial education programs kicked off Thursday at Indiana University Northwest.
Money Smart Week is an effort that began in Chicago in 2002 with 30 organizations and 40 events. It has since grown to include events in over a dozen states.
“I get calls every year from more and more cities saying they want to replicate what’s happening here in the Midwest,” said Alejo Torres, senior outreach program manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. “It’s very gratifying to see that type of response and growth around financial education.”
Although Money Smart Week has been operating for over a decade, Torres said financial education has been increasingly important during the last five years because of the weakness in the economy.
IU Northwest Chancellor William Lowe said his institution embraces the themes of Money Smart Week.
“Community engagement is the hallmark of IU Northwest’s commitment to advancing educational in our region and also looking at the priorities of our region,” he said.
Ivy Tech Community College this year becomes the second institution of higher education to provide a Money Smart Resource Fair. Its fair Saturday at the Valparaiso campus, along with IU Northwest’s fair April 27, will act as “educational bookends” for a week of financial literacy.
“We’re very pleased to support this type of endeavor,” said Ivy Tech Community College Northwest Chancellor Thomas Coley. “We are strong believers in the knowledge that if we increase financial capabilities of everyone, we will increase the financial capabilities of the region.”
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she was at the Money Smart Week kick-off event not just as a “cheerleader,” but as a stakeholder.
“If our citizens are money smart, then that means they will invest in homes, business and in our community,” she said.
The kick-off at IU Northwest also introduced the three finalists of the Money Smart Kid essay contest. Almost 100 middle school students from Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Jasper and Newton counties submitted an essay describing the differences between an investment and an expense.
Second-place finisher Alexus Shirrells, an eighth-grader at Pierce Middle School in Merrillville, said the research she did for her essay was a great start to becoming financially responsible.
“I learned how to invest in money,” she said.
Finishing third in the contest was Yna Magee, also an eighth-grade student at Pierce.
“Things like investments and expenses are good to think about even at a young age, and that’s why the Money Smart program is so helpful,” she said.
The first-place winner of the essay contest was Elnisha McIntyre, a sixth-grader at Frankie McCullough Academy for Girls in Gary.