By MOLLY WESTFALL
The United Way of West Central Connecticut just hosted its Youth Forum.
The United Way Youth Board was established in 1998 with the initial objective to assess the issues that affect the young community, prioritize projects they should undertake and formulate a plan to accomplish their goals while making the greatest impact.
The theme of this forum was “Don’t Be Afraid to Dance with Finance,” a program designed to motivate young people to start planning now for their futures ahead, the careers they’ve chosen and their budget for the future upon graduating high school/college. Representatives of six of Central Connecticut’s high schools were in attendance: Bristol Central High School, Bristol Eastern High School, Lewis S Mills High School, Plainville High School, St. Paul Catholic High School, and Terryville High School.
“As high school students our parents have always handled our electricity, heat, things we don’t realize. Going into the adult world, we have to learn how to do these things for ourselves,” said Ben Czuprinski of St. Paul Catholic High School on why the Youth Board decided to go with the topic of finance for this forum.
In addition, Alexandra Bernier said, “This is something we need to learn about, but we tend to not want to learn about it, so this is a good opportunity for us.”
Each school was responsible for securing a booth for the “reality fair” portion of the program. Bristol Central secured Melanie and Matt Dumont from the Roland Dumont Agency, who set up a booth about insurance costs. Bristol Eastern secured Pat Collins from Voya Financial, who set up a booth about investments. St. Paul Catholic secured Phyllis Tucker from Thomaston Savings Bank. Lewis Mills secured the key note speaker for the night Todd Burton, as well as Marilyn Perzan from Thomaston Savings Bank; they also created the budget templates with salaries that the students used during the evening. Plainville High secured Jay Steeves from Calcagni Real Estate, who set up a booth about renting versus buying homes, apartments, condos etc. Terryville High provided the ice breaker exercise for the event.
Many of the students commented that this was the first forum where they utilized booths and the students were encouraged to walk around and interact with one another.
“It’s a fun way to get kids involved, this is our first year with booths and we’ve been able to walk around and get to know each other more and get to know our topic more,” said Alyssa Renick of Terryville High School.
The students were asked what they hoped their peers would learn from the evening’s program, “they’ll learn about the reality of what’s going to happen after school in the future, especially with certain jobs they want to pursue,” said Nick Trottier of Bristol Eastern High School.
Zachary Aldieri from Bristol Central High School added, “We just want to make sure they can budget their money after college, no one really has access to real money now, so growing up we’ll have that stress to manage our money.”
Members of the Youth Board also shared what they specifically have learned in putting the event on. Riley McNaboe of Lewis S Mills High School said, “Personally, I’m not in any of the career or businesses classes at school so it definitely opened my eyes.” Aldieri also added that he recently got accepted to college, “I’ve seen the cost of it directly affect my decision, and the amount of loans I need to take out is something I’m worrying about already.”
Like many of the students in attendance Renick shared that she has no previous financial background and there were a lot more “nuts and bolts” to it than she imagined, “it’s not just like, you have this amount of money and these bills to pay.”
The night was sponsored by Comcast and the United Way of West Central Connecticut. The students were able to attend free of charge and enjoy a dinner provided by Nuchies.
By MOLLY WESTFALL