Phil Hickman, community bank president, Associated Bank, and his team, have partnered with the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Head Start Program to offer financial education to local East St. Louis parents.

“Through my involvement in the community, I recognized a need for a long-term financial education program in our region,” said Hickman. “We know that many parents here don’t even use banks. We want to break that cycle so that our youth learn financial responsibility earlier in life.”

The program, created by Hickman, aims to not only provide financial education, but to begin building trusted relationships between parents and their local bank. The 10-week curriculum is modeled after FDIC’s Money Smart Program and includes lessons on budgeting, how to open a checking account and how to finance a home. There’s also an incentive – every graduate of the program receives $200 towards a savings account for their child and $50 into an account for the parent.

“Many students in this region are graduating from high school without basic financial literacy skills, which is causing them to dig themselves into a financial hole without even realizing it,” continued Hickman. “If we can reach these students earlier in life, they’ll have the knowledge and confidence to effectively manage their financial resources. That can change their 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.

“I’m so proud to be part of this program in partnership with Associated Bank because of the impact it has on participants and their children,” said Jackie Joyner-Kersee. “The mission of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation has long been to empower children and families to win in life. Part of that mission is also to employer them to succeed financially.”

The program, now in its second year, has already expanded to five other Head Start centers in St. Clair County in conjunction with Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville-East St. Louis Center, where lessons and incentives are provided by other banks in the area. After the most recent graduation on May 23, the program at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center has graduated 23 participants.