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Jackie Bennett, left, Sky Lindsey, Ricky Feliciano, AJ Domingo and DJ Edgerton participated in the YWCA Common Cents program, selling cookies and ice cream.
Cindy Ellen Russell - Star Bulletin

Nine-year old Julia Schnetzler helped with the ice cream sale.
Cindy Ellen Russell - Star Bulletin

Corwin Shapiro takes a victory lap around the room to celebrate receiving his Life, Inc., certificate. The YWCA program provides mentorship to children by local business professionals. 
Cindy Ellen Russell - Star Bulletin

Grace Schnetzler, 7, indulges in the fruits of her labor for the Common Cents program ice cream and cookies sale.
Cindy Ellen Russell - Star Bulletin

News Feature in original format  click here


career creativity
Children Explore The Business World
As They Learn About Money

Honolulu Star Bulletin - National News - October 31, 2006

By Nancy Arcayna

WHAT do you want to be when you grow up?

Kids repeatedly hear this phrase, although it takes on a mounting degree of seriousness as they get older. While at age 5, wanting to be, say, a princess, is totally acceptable -- at age 16, not so much.  By the time kids reach their teens, well-meaning adults are often advocating a common-sense approach, based on a student's proficiency in a particular subject, such as math.

But Life, Inc., a pilot program recently launched at the YWCA, teaches that kids should be allowed to explore creative careers as well as the strictly practical. The program encourages hip-hop dancing as well as teaching school; fashion designing as well as banking.  The six-week program has been introduced at YWCA Laniakea, along with a companion program for younger children called Common Cents that puts them to work making and selling their own ice cream.  It's all in the name of understanding basic finances, and introducing kids to the endless possibilities in the world of work.

"Students are always asked the dreaded 'future' question, and if they don't know, they may feel anxiety and rush into rash decisions," said Leanne Nakamura, a trained Life, Inc. mentor. "The program helps them realize that figuring out who they are first will help them find what they want to do -- instead of the other way around.

"Going through the program will help students focus on their future without feeling panicked."
Program mentor Victoria Peters holds up a certificate of completion given to older children at the end of a related program, Life, Inc.
Cindy Ellen Russell -
Star Bulletin

So far, the Life, Inc., program has involved children of middle-school age. And while a career goal this early might not stick, exploring the possibilities is healthy, says Cheryl Ka'uhane Lupenui, president and CEO of the YWCA.

The first group to go through the program, for example, included Alex Allen, 10, who has her mind set on being a hip-hop dancer, and Aleeya Brand, 11, who wants to be a fashion designer.

"I used to take classes ... and I dance at home by myself," Alex said.

"I really want to be a fashion designer," Aleeya said. "I also want to make bags, purses and other stuff like that."

Mentors with Life, Inc., take these aims seriously and help the kids understand what it will take to reach their goals.

"I need to take more lessons, graduate from high school and go to college," Alex said.

Life, Inc. -- "The Ultimate Career Guide for Young People" -- was created by Neale S. Godfrey, author of 15 books, including "Money Doesn't Grow on Trees: A Parent's Guide to Raising Financially Responsible Children." Godfrey, president and founder of the Children's Financial Network, chose Honolulu for the pilot project for reasons including cultural diversity, access to major corporations and community involvement.

"Believe in yourself -- and don't set limitations" was one of the main ideas that mentor Victoria Peters, director of Six Sigma at Sheraton, addressed during classes.
The youth participants anticipate what their lives will be like in the future. They also create a list of strengths and consider their passions.  Peters worked alongside mentors from various professional fields, including banking and real estate. "It offered a diverse set of perspectives on careers," she said.

Lupenui hopes that the program is expanded. "It's a very important program that nobody else is doing," she said. "Research shows that it is too late to teach kids in high school about finances."  The younger children have an opportunity to explore career choices, before they get into high school and face the pressures of applying for college, she added. "They can still dream and be exposed to opportunities that they may not have been aware of -- it gives them tools on how to achieve their goals."

Nakamura, a graduate student in speech at the University of Hawaii, said the process the children went through would be valuable to much older students as well.  "After going through the (mentor) training, I told Neale Godfrey, 'Wow, this can be tailored for college students, too,' " said Nakamura. "As a student, I see lots of my friends struggling through the same issues while choosing a major. I go through the same doubts about my future as well."

MENTORS also worked with a younger group of children, ages 5 to 8, in the Common Cents" program -- a financial literacy program also developed by Godfrey, which is used in 5,000 classrooms in 48 states.  Teachings revolved around Godfrey's book, "Here's the Scoop: Follow an Ice-Cream Cone Around the World." The kids learned why money was invented, and how it is earned, spent, saved and shared -- and how money and business connect people around the globe.

In the end, the participants made their own ice cream to sell at a fundraiser. They learned sales tactics, how to run a business and practiced making change. Guest speakers taught them about sugar, how vanilla beans are transported from New Guinea, and more.

"It's neat for them to meet people in the business world, from different walks of life," said Joanne Williamson, whose 8-year-old daughter, Julia Schnetzler, was a participant. "Normally they wouldn't have the opportunity to meet them in that fashion -- real people doing real jobs."

Julia said she enjoyed the classes, but would not want to run an ice cream business. "We learned about making profits," she said. "If I wanted to start a business, I would need money and lots of things. You can't open a store without things to sell. I learned that it is really risky. If something goes wrong, you lose a lot of money so you have to think ahead."

Call 538-7061 ext 608 or 614 for enrollment information on LIfe, Inc., and Common Cents.


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