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"A Dollar and A Dream” Reality Fair Gives Inner City Youth a Taste of Managing Life

More than 40 youth from Better Family Life’s Youth Leadership Program recently experienced what it will be like living on their own. The teens attended a financial reality fair sponsored by Electro Savings Credit Union in coordination with Bank On Save Up, a program formed by the St. Louis Unbanked Task Force.

The financial reality fair, titled “A Dollar and A Dream” was the dream of Electro Savings’ LaTonya Jackson. Jackson along with three students working as interns for Bank On Save Up developed the materials and put on the fair at Better Family Life located on Page Avenue in St. Louis City.

“I’ve participated in local reality fairs before and love how they really wake-up teens getting them to think about living on their own and paying their own bills,” says Jackson. “We added an urban twist by challenging the teens with merchants and advertising that you find when living in neighborhoods in urban areas.”

During the fair, teens were given a profile that included a job, salary and family situation. The first choice each teen must make was how to handle their paycheck: Would they deposit it into a credit union account or cash it at a check cashing facility? They had to choose where to live and shop, even what brands to buy based on their income and family situation.

The goal was to have no more than $100 left at the end of every month to put towards a savings account. The fair even included a financial counselor table that was available throughout the shopping period.

“We forced them to not only make choices about what they buy but when they can buy. Do they make it on each paycheck, or do they have to use a short-term payday loan,” continues Jackson.

Caption (top): LaTonya Jackson, of Electro Savings Credit Union, helps a student navigate the reality fair. 

Caption (bottom): Bank On Save Up interns help Jackson man the reality fair. Pictured are Intern Shaheed Whitfield, Jackson, Intern Sylvia Wilson, Intern Emmanuel Logan, and Roy, Better Family Life Youth Coordinator.