GSCM is Making Financial Literacy a Priority

The following article is from The Baltimore Sun and can be viewed online here.

In between pool time and play time, Girl Scouts of Central Maryland and the Arbutus Library want middle school-aged girls to take time this summer to learn about finances and business. The organizations are joining together to host a six-week course that teaches young girls just that. Registration is now open for the session, which is scheduled to begin July 10. “They’re going to learn about the difference between cash, debit and credit”, said Lorrie Caudle, chief operating officer at Girl Scouts of Central Maryland. The girls will also learn “the difference between a want and a need”, she said.

The Get Financially Fit course will be taught by Girl Scout leaders and hosted at the library, 855 Sulphur Spring Road. Classes will run through mid-August, from 2 to 3 p.m. every Friday. It is the first time the course has been offered in the Arbutus area, Caudle said, though it has been held at other locations around Central Maryland in the past. Each time the program has been hosted, she said, the group has received rave reviews from parents of participants.

The Arbutus program is sponsored by Toyota Financial, and Robert Maranto, manager of the Arbutus Library, said he and his staff are excited for the opportunity to host it. According to Caudle, the timing for the course couldn’t be better. In 2014, the average 15 to 18-year-old scored only a 60 percent on the National Financial Literacy Test, a 30-question test 1 developed by the National Financial Educators Council to determine the level of financial literacy among young people in the United States.

In the first class, the girls will focus on business and selling a product. Working in groups, they will develop a sales pitch to sell a box of Girl Scout cookies to the instructor. They will learn terms and concepts such as “finance”, “spending log”, “budget”, “global exchange rate”, “entrepreneur” and “non-profit”. In the second class, the girls will learn about writing checks and what happens if a person writes a check for more money than they have in their account. The third class will teach the girls how to exchange U.S. dollars for foreign currency, in addition to the basics of opening the business, such as building costs, zoning and target clientele. The following week, the girls will develop their business ideas just like a real small business owner would. They will be instructed in how to design business cards and create a commercial.

By the end of the program, the girls will have determined what their dream job is and will have practiced tracking their spending. They will have gone through a mock interview and have learned about numerous fields available to them in the future. Although many of the girls who attend the program will be years from needing to balance their own budget or the chance to develop their own company, Caudle said the preteen age is the perfect time to introduce girls to the financial basics.

“Girls need to have financial literacy so that they can be prepared as adults”, she said. “These are girls that are just starting to dream about getting a job, so we’re giving them some skills before they get into high school.”

Recognizing that it can be difficult to get a young person on summer break to attend a class held at the library every week, Caudle said the course will also feature traditional Girl Scout activities like bracelet-making and friendship circles, though they will be joined with lessons on networking. Participants do not have to be enrolled in or involved with the Girl Scouts in order to sign up for the program, according to Caudle.

Registration is free at the Arbutus Library. For information, go to bcpl.info/events/datelines-arbutus.

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