Students at Jasper Jr. High School are learning early about financial management.
Bevill State Community College-Jasper has partnered with the school to offer a seven-week financial literacy course, Banking With the Bears, to eighth-grade students.
Approximately 15 students have been afforded the opportunity to take the course, based on the flexibility of their schedules to allow for taking the 30-minute class each Tuesday and Thursday.
Beth Roberts, director of student services for the Bevill State Jasper campus, said the financial literacy course is made possible through a grant the college received from Auburn University, the Alabama Community Capacity Network Grant.
Roberts said a number of colleges and universities across the state received the grant that is to be used for a community project.
Bevill State Dean of Student Success Max Weaver, along with Roberts, decided a financial literacy course could be beneficial for students. With the help of Bevill State Ambassadors who are part of a leadership class, the project quickly became a reality.
Hunter Jenkins, an ambassador for Bevill State, explained that ambassadors helped design the course framework for the eighth-grade students and actually help teach the financial course at Jasper Jr. High.
"When we were presented with this project, we really wanted to deal with 8th graders because, by the time they're sophomores, they're having to deal with FAFSA, scholarships, and they're having to make these adult decisions," Jenkins said. "We thought this was a good opportunity for us to help these students and give them a foundation that they're going to need."
Representatives from local banks and other organizations have also been speaking to students since the financial literacy course began in January.
"It's been a really good opportunity for all of us, and what's really good is seeing that these students are inquisitive and they want this information," Jenkins said.
During the first two weeks of the course, Jasper Jr. High students learned how to write checks and how to make deposits. They were also educated on savings and checking accounts, as well as credit and debit cards.
Students most recently learned about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), student loans and scholarships, and they will also learn about real estate during the course.
Roberts said two ambassadors typically attend each class. One is tasked with being a lead teacher, while another serves as an assistant.
"The young students from Jasper Jr. High are learning financial literacy. Our students that are ambassadors in the leadership class are learning presentation skills, leadership skills," Roberts said. "They're learning organizational skills and all kinds of things that go along with putting on this class that they're doing."
Jasper Jr. High students who participated in the financial literacy course will get to take part in a graduation ceremony for the program on Feb. 28.
Jasper Jr. High Principal Lutis Moore said he is grateful to Bevill State and its ambassadors for serving the school's students.
"It's going to give kids a jump on what's to come in the future," Moore said of the course. "It's really a great thing for our kids to experience and hear from someone who's a little bit older, a little bit wiser than them."
Moore said some junior high students already have jobs, so learning about finances now will be incredibly beneficial for them in the years to come.
Typically, students don't do an in-depth study of financial matters until they take economics during their senior year of high school.
"These kids are crafty. They have jobs now, whether it's cutting grass or doing some kind of odd job," Moore said. "This kind of course right now gives them a heads up on what they can do to help them plan better for their future or how to have their money make money for them."
Roberts said the Bevill State Ambassadors who helped teach the financial literacy course will attend an Alabama Community Capacity Network conference in Montgomery in the coming weeks. The conference will bring together students from colleges and universities across the state that received a grant to share the community projects they implemented.
The Bevill State Fayette campus also received a grant from the Alabama Community Capacity Network that was used to implement a financial literacy course.
Roberts said she couldn't be more proud of Bevill Ambassadors for their hard work.
"This is about the students. It's not about anything that I've done or that faculty have done. This is a student-driven initiative, and they have done an outstanding job," she said. "Even if we didn't have the grant from Auburn, I still think it's a great way to give back. They're ambassadors, they're student leaders, they're the face of the college. It just lends itself very well to let that group be the students that did that."
The Bevill State-Jasper Ambassadors who are helping to teach the financial literacy course at Jasper Jr. High are Caleb Aaron, Gracie Aaron, Hannah Alsup, Olivia Blanton, Cole Burgett, Lauren Gregory, Hunter Jenkins, Kaiden Kennedy, Alie May, Isaac Mays, Jacob Padgett and Bailey Thompson.