Associated Bank East St. Louis in partnership with The Jackie-Joyner Kersee Foundation and SIUE Head Start program recently celebrated their 10th graduating class of parents and grandparents from their financial literacy program. 

“Financial literacy is extremely important,” said Olympic legend and gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee. “The least we can do is to collaborate with Associated Bank and SIUE to help build financial literacy in our community. We are here working with SIUE and the community. We consider ourselves family, and with family you share.” 


In 2015, Associated Bank’s now retired Phil Hickman, community bank president and the Southern Illinois Associated Bank team, joined forces with the JJK Foundation to create a local financial literacy program. Every spring and fall, Associated Bank colleagues devote their time to teach a 10-week curriculum modeled after FDIC’s Money Smart Program and includes lessons on budget planning, credit awareness, debt resolution and managing a checking account to the parents and grandparents of the head start program.


“We recognized a need for a long-term financial education program for adults in our region,” said Tracy Session, senior vice president, district manager, Associated Bank in East St. Louis. “Through my team’s involvement in the community, we know that many parents here don’t use banks. We want to break that cycle, so our youth learn and understand financial responsibility earlier in life.”


At the end of every program, participants go to their local Associated Bank branch and meet branch manager, Loretta Holmes. She becomes their banker and continues to coach them after the class is over. She and her staff work to build relationships with graduates to break down the barriers that have kept them from banking in the past.


As an incentive, every graduate of the program receives $700 towards a savings account for their child to save for colleague and $300 into an account for the parent.


​"It is so rewarding to have the graduates visit the bank, meet our bankers and put into practice the new skills we worked on during the course,” said Loretta Holmes, East St. Louis senior branch manager, Associated Bank. “I’m so pleased when the parents stop in the bank and say ‘hi.’ It’s great to know that I can make a difference.”  


Another highlight of the program is the graduation ceremony.


​"The graduation ceremony is such a special event for participants, their families, our colleagues and members of the JJK Foundation," said Session. "There is a sense of accomplishment that can be felt throughout the room as graduates accept their certificates and we all come together as one.”


Since its launch, the program has impacted 59 families—and counting. The success of the program has led to other Head Start programs through the county replicating the format, helping to grow the collective impact and reach more families in the region.


View Southern Illinois University Edwardsville story and video here: