In rural southwestern Missouri, resources for the developmentally disabled are sometimes hard to come by. That's why the work of the Lawrence County Board for Developmental Disabilities and other local agencies is so important.
In the Board's twice-monthly “Money Skills for Life” class, Elaine Scherer and other staff and volunteers teach young adult students fundamental personal finance tasks like how to create a budget, set up a savings plan, and use a checking account. These and other life skills help the students learn to live on their own, find employment, and work toward their goals.
“We want them to manage their own budget and make their own choices,” Ms. Scherer says.
Much of the work is one-on-one, which provides lots of opportunities for personalized learning. Students who are already employed can focus on how to make their paycheck cover their needs and their longer-term financial goals. Others learn how to save enough money to pay for the supplies needed to get a job, like uniforms. In fact, says Ms. Scherer, one student has already met that exact goal, giving her the chance to volunteer at a local agency collating papers.
The learning is hands-on and practical. One student is using a bank account to save up to visit her sister in another state. Another is setting aside money to get his car fixed.
The students also do group projects–like running a lemonade stand–that lead to bigger incentive prizes.
“We were right downtown where they could start by finding donations and ways to make smaller useable craft items to have money. In turn they used that money to purchase the lemonade supplies. We used Ed's Bank game to help them learn the different coins, and then we used the Budget Planner to help them with budget basics for their project,” Ms. Scherer says.
Through the stand they've raised hundreds of dollars so far–enough to purchase books, videos, and materials on money management, goal-setting, and financial planning.
By all standards, the program is a success. And it's still growing, with new facilities, new life-skills programs, and more incentives for students, ensuring that those in need of the program can continue to take part and benefit from it.