The Next Generation

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:37 pm

The need for financial literacy is widespread in our society, and our young people need to learn the basics early. Three years ago, the United Community Center began a partnership to open the UCC Kids Bank, sponsored by U.S. Bank.

The project hoped to encourage savings among the students at the Bruce Guadalupe Community School, while presenting information about potential financial careers, as well as awareness of personal financial goal-setting with complementary curriculum lessons in the classroom.

A little more than three years later, we have seen more than $20,000 in deposits and more than 200 students who hold bank accounts with U.S. Bank that have been opened at the UCC Kids Bank.

Many of these students come weekly with as little as 25 cents to deposit. Students wait in line at the UCC Kids Bank main branch in our Community Learning Center or in one of our satellite branches in the school gyms.

The bank is staffed completely by students and directed by a student board of directors. Staff assists with accuracy checks and supervision, but the students take pride in helping their classmates save for college and other important future endeavors.

These student account holders, some as young as 6 years old, will be way ahead of the curve as they and their accounts grow. These savings accounts will serve as building blocks and will make it easier for these students to attend college and eventually purchase their own homes.

Studies show that many Hispanic families are less financially stable than others in America. As a result, their level of savings is fairly low, and in general they have lower homeownership rates. We believe that our efforts with the UCC Kids Bank, as well as our homeownership program, will help reverse this trend and address the serious financial challenges facing many Milwaukee-area Hispanics.

In the last couple of years, we have served a record number of families with our financial counseling and home-buying program, helping them to navigate the often-confusing journey of purchasing their own home. Last year alone, we helped almost 80 families purchase a home.

While just one part of the broader picture, financial education helps students in practical, everyday ways. Strategies specifically targeted to educate low-income families will effectively help them create substantial economic opportunities. With a strong foundation about the importance and value of saving, today’s students are unlikely to squander away future opportunities.

Recent studies show that the growth of a city is directly linked to the number of graduates that city produces. These graduates will fill jobs in every aspect of society, most especially in many of the small businesses that allow Milwaukee to thrive. Financial fluency will be a critical part to their success.

As a community, which will rely on these young people to run our businesses and be our employees, we must all work together to develop creative methods for not only teaching them the basics, but also some of the more complex aspects of their financial future.

With practical experience in banking as a foundation, our teachers can begin to introduce more advanced financial concepts into the math curriculum. The earlier our young people take ownership of their financial success, the more they will be able to save. They will also be more well-equipped to avoid common pitfalls facing many young people and even older people such as lack of savings for education, bad credit, bankruptcy, lack of retirement funds, etc.

UCC’s efforts with the UCC Kids Bank were recently honored by the Governor’s Council on Financial Literacy, and personally nominated by First Lady Jessica Doyle. We were delighted to receive this award, because it further emphasizes the importance and value of such projects to our students but also to the broader community.

We are confident that our efforts will prepare our younger generation, who will likely face even more financial challenges than ever, for promising a future. As these young, educated and finically literate students grow and succeed, we will likely see the scales tip away from utilization of benefits to more positive contributions to the economy.

Ricardo Diaz is the executive director of the United Community Center in Milwaukee. Additional information is available at

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