Financial literacy is an important life skill, especially for young people entering the workforce in today’s rapidly changing global economy. To help bring these skills to young people in the community, Peoples Bank proudly partners with Junior Achievement (JA) of Washington, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching financial literacy, career readiness, and entrepreneurship.
Peoples Bank’s Chris Martinez and Sierra Schram frequently volunteer with JA, and they recently sat down with SnohomishTalk and Junior Achievement Regional Program Manager Carmen Marttila to discuss the importance of financial literacy and the work of JA.
For over 100 years, JA has been educating youth in communities across the United States. “Our mission is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy,” says Marttila. “Volunteers like Chris and Sierra, and several other Peoples Bank employees, are critical to the success of our programs.”
JA volunteers follow a planned curriculum but are also encouraged to share their unique stories and life experiences to show students how to create a budget, set saving goals, make smart spending choices, and manage their money for the best outcome.
“Financial literacy should be a part of every student’s elementary and secondary education,” says Peoples Bank Branch Manager Chris Martinez. “Looking back to when I was in school, it would have been so beneficial to have JA programs because it would have given me an advantage in the real world. It prepares you for life after high school.”
Peoples Bank Branch Manager Sierra Schram also strongly believes in the organization’s mission. “It’s a blast teaching these students,” Schram says. “Seeing them ask questions, understand the process, and relate it to their everyday life is fun to watch. You can see the lightbulbs go off for them.”
Marttila notes the program’s particular impact on low-income communities and the benefits of this type of education. “Having low-income communities benefit from this program is really important to JA and to our partners.”
All of JA’s services — including its curriculum, volunteers, and school partners — are provided at no cost to the community. To offer services for free, JA relies on fundraising in creative and fun ways.
“Through fundraisers, we raise what we need to support and grow,” says Marttila. “Our annual gala, the Dare to Dream Dinner & Auction, is our largest fundraising event, and all proceeds from it support our programs for the following year. This unique event at T-Mobile Park is an opportunity for the community to learn about our work and for us to shine a spotlight on our alumni, educators, and volunteers.”
According to Martinez and Schram, one of the best ways to ensure local youth have a firm handle on money management is to encourage bankers in the community to volunteer with JA and share their experiences.
“I would like to see more bankers step up and share their knowledge about finance,” Martinez says. “They can help the community so much by teaching financial literacy.”
Schram emphasizes the merit of openness between banker volunteers and students. “A big part of the experience is being vulnerable with these kids — otherwise, they won’t open up to you,” she says. “For example, I didn’t go to college, but my colleague, with whom I was co-leading a JA session, did. We were able to show the class that anything’s possible when you put your mind to it. While we have different backgrounds, today we are both branch managers.”
Investing time and resources in today’s youth helps ensure the financial security of their future, and it has a ripple effect on the entire community.
“It helps to plant the seed when young people are in school and learning,” Marttila says. “We talk about breaking the cycle of poverty, and this is a huge piece that will help many people escape the cycle before they even get there because they are empowered with the tools they need to make changes and course-correct as needed throughout their lives.”
JA has created a valuable legacy throughout the country by educating young people about managing their livelihoods. With help from partners like Peoples Bank, it will continue to grow and help many more students succeed.
Learn more about Junior Achievement of Washington and opportunities to get involved here.