Walsh, Harvard Kent Students Set to Debut New Childhood Savings Accounts

By Seth Daniel

“I’m going to college!” sang JunYu Yu, a kindergartner from Charlestown at the Harvard Kent School. The celebration and singing was part of the official rollout of the Childhood Savings Account program in the Boston Public Schools. The Harvard Kent is one of five schools piloting the program ahead of a districtwide rollout in 2019.

With a room full of parents, teachers and City officials, Harvard Kent School kindergartners marched proudly across the stage last Thursday night, Feb. 16, chanting, “We’re going to College! We’re going to College!,” which was followed up by a major announcement about a new savings program being piloted at the Harvard Kent.

Mayor Martin Walsh joined those kindergartners, as well as members of the school community, to celebrate the launch of Boston Saves, the City’s Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program, at the Harvard-Kent. The program is designed to give families the opportunity to create a long-term savings plan for college, post-secondary education and training, for their children.

The Harvard-Kent is one of five schools selected as part of a pilot phase to prepare the City for a universal rollout in Fall 2019. Other schools include the the James Otis Elementary School in East Boston, the Franklin D. Roosevelt K-8 in Hyde Park and Conley Elementary School in Roslindale. The McKay K-8 School in East Boston is scheduled to launch the program in early March 2017. However, it was the Harvard Kent that was chosen as the focal point on Thursday.

Walsh said the new CSAs will be available to every family enrolling in kindergarten, and upon signing up, the account will automatically have $50 deposited as a starting gift.

“Even a small amount over time can make a big difference, and there is no better time than now to begin saving for the future,” he said. “When I look around the room, I see a lot of people who don’t appear to have been born here. My parents weren’t born here either. My family were immigrants. My mother and father didn’t know a lot about college. They knew what it was, but didn’t know how to get me there. You do have to figure that out if you don’t have a family member who has gone through the college experience…Children with a CSA are four times more likely to graduate from college than those that don’t have Childhood Savings Accounts. This is about planting a seed to a bright future to fulfill their dreams and your dreams for them.”

Principal Jason Gallagher said the program fits in perfect at the Harvard Kent, as they have fought hard to instill a culture in the school where students expect to go to college. That is reflected in the annual Harvard Kent Leadership Scholarship program, and the CSA pilot will just add to that effort.

“When I first heard about this, it just sounded like such a perfect fit for the Harvard Kent given all that we’re doing to promote college here,” he said.

At the event, parents and students were invited after the presentation to access their CSA through an online platform created in partnership with InvestCloud. The platform allows families to link any savings, checking or 529 account to a secure online platform that makes it easy to save, earn rewards, track progress and gain financial tips.

“We jumped at the opportunity to provide our financial technology tools to power this outstanding new program by Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston,” said John Wise, CEO of InvestCloud, Inc. “Boston families deserve a savings plan that helps them easily and efficiently plan for the future. InvestCloud software will allow parents access to their children’s accounts anytime, on a platform that’s simple and easy to use. We think that this program will be a game-changer for the city’s families, and we’re thrilled to be on board.”

The program, run by the Mayor’s Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE), has three goals:

  • Set expectations that every child in Boston will enroll in and complete some form of post-secondary education or training.
  • Increase the percentage of Boston’s children who graduate from high school and the percentage of BPS graduates who enroll in and complete college or some form of post-secondary education or training.
  • Increase Boston’s children and families’ financial capability to help create lifelong savings and investment habits, a key for success in college and beyond.

All kindergarten (K2) students at the selected pilot schools will have an initial seed deposit of $50 set aside for them. Families will be able to save for post-secondary education and training, and will have opportunities to earn incentives along the way.

The pilot program is supported by various private foundations, including the Eos Foundation, a private philanthropic foundation committed to breaking the cycle of poverty by investing in children’s future. Programmatic support is provided by Metro Credit Union, the Boston Educational Development Foundation, and ReadBoston, with financial literacy support from OFE and Santander Bank.

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