FOR THE RECORD

Piggybanks & Pasta Highlight Findley Dreamer Workshop

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Findley student calculates college costs.You can’t beat a free pasta dinner catered by Northside landmark Chuck’s Restaurant, right? Unless, besides cookies, $30 were served for dessert.

The second annual Beginner’s Guide to Paying for College workshop was held at Findley Elementary last night. Designed to help families understand more about how and where to find money for college, the event, cosponsored by the I Have a Dream Foundation (IHDF) and Iowa Student Loan (ISL), included sessions on:

  • What your student and family can do now to prepare for education after high school
  • Setting up and maintaining 529 plans
  • Budgeting and finding extra cash
  • Planning and paying for college (for parents of high school students)
  • Beginner’s Guide to Paying for College in Spanish

But first everyone gathered in the new-this-year “cafetorium,” as Findley’s Dreamer Academy Program Manager Billy Kirby calls it, to break bread and listen to welcoming remarks from Kirby and Findley Principal Barb Adams. The turnout was so strong they ran out of salad!

IHDF is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to motivating and empowering children from low-income communities to set and reach long range goals by providing mentoring, tutoring and enrichment. IHDF established Findley’s Dreamer Academy, complete with College Savings Accounts for all of the kids.

“The idea is to introduce families to the concept and process of college financing early on,” Kirby said. “Parents can get overwhelmed with information all at once when their kids are finishing high school and make rash decisions, especially if it’s a first-generation college family.”

ISL is another nonprofit dedicated to helping students afford and finance their college dreams.
Research indicates that establishment of CSAs in the name of kids who would be first-generation college-goers in their families increases the chance that they will ever attend by a factor of five and increases their odds of graduating sixfold, even if the amount in the account is less than $500.

Last night’s event qualified as one in a series of what are called Financial Literacy Milestones that earn deposits in the CSAs established by IHDF for Findley students. Reaching all of the milestones sprinkled throughout the school year equates to $230.

Coming to parent/teacher conferences is worth $20 (and, thanks this year to ISL, a cool backpack stuffed with a piggybank stuffed with some starter coins and an invitation to last night’s event). So is maintaining a school attendance rate of 95% or higher for a full semester. Student book logs compiled during the year are valued at $30, too.

Heather Isaacson is the Dreamer Academy Coordinator at Findley and she says ISL has really stepped up its support this year.

“Besides the backpacks and piggybanks at conferences they’ve made a generous donation of seed money for the Dreamer savings accounts,” she said. “ISL has really bought into the notion of engaging early with families instead of waiting until students are coming down the stretch of high school and post-secondary school or vocational training is urgent.”

As if everything else they’re doing weren’t enough, ISL volunteers were even manning the chow line Tuesday night.

Ryan McDonald is the father of a five year-old daughter and a two year-old son. Eliza is in kindergarten at Findley. The McDonalds aren’t the primary target of the college planning workshop. Both Ryan, a pastor, and his wife Alyssa, who teaches English at North High, are college grads who graduated together from East High in 2002. IHDF and ISL are more deliberately aiming at families with students who would be first-generation college-goers. Nevertheless, “We are excited not just about the college savings and planning emphasis,” McDonald said in between bites of cavatelli, “but also in general about the prospect of our kids going through the diverse North feeder pattern.”

Where there’s never been more on the menu than these days.

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