An East Chicago native who became a big-shot Wall Street banker and later penned a children's book is embarking on a new venture that's going to make a big splash in Times Square before going national this summer.

Rogina Smith, who now lives in Merrillville, wrote "The Kiddie Coin Kids" more than a decade ago to teach kids the basics of money in an easy-to-understand way. The book was published in 2003. Smith, who's now a motivational speaker and the president and CEO of the consulting firm Positive Image Consulting Inc., wants to to reach kids where they are today, which is why she's launching a mobile app for smartphones and tablets.

She hired major app designer ZCO to make a Kiddie Coin Kids game that kids can play on their phones. The app will be free, but generate revenue through in-game advertising. She hopes to make it widely available at school districts across the country, and especially in Northwest Indiana.

Smith, who runs a company that teaches corporations and organizations training and coaching skills, started her 28-year banking career at the now-defunct Security Federal Savings and Loan in East Chicago, went on to work for Chase, and ultimately became an advocate for financial literacy. She has written educational programs for school districts and hosted the Money Matters and Life Empowerment Coaching Hour show for WLTH 1370 AM. She's also working to develop her "The Kiddie Coin Kids" book into a cartoon series.

"One of the things I discovered was that the teaching of the basic understandings of finance was very limited in the school system, and I wanted to do something to help kids understand the fundamentals of money management," she said. "When I went out to look for materials to help teach children about this subject, there wasn't anything appealing to me. So I decided to write 'The Kiddie Coin Kids' book which ultimately resulted in my creating an educational financial curriculum for schools."

"The Kiddie Coins Kids" game launches on June 27 with an advertising campaign on a huge digital billboard in New York City's Times Square, something Smith had dreamed of when she was working in the city as a banker.

She realized she needed to take the approach to teaching children about money management and financial responsibility after one of her grandchildren borrowed her phone and proceeded to download a bunch of games.

"I began to take notice of just how many young children, including babies, were mesmerized by iPhones, iPads and other devices," she said. "That is what inspired me to introduce the 'Kiddie Coin Kids' to a new generation by using them in an app. I knew if I wanted to reach today’s youth and begin that education at the earliest age possible, I had to make their learning fun, interactive and available through new technology."

The game can be played by all ages and involves different tasks, such as making change at the grocery store.

"Throughout my career, I have always encouraged my clients and students that I address in my educational programs to dream big," Smith said. "This has taken a true leap of faith to do this, but I practice what I preach. I dream big."

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

Night Editor

Jeanette is a journalist with The Times Media Co. who has worked as both a reporter and editor. She has a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.