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Getting early start on financial goals; 5th- and 6th-graders sign a pledge to show progress with money

A group of Buffalo students began their school day Thursday with a pledge to the flag and ended it with a pledge to their finances.

About 20 students at Hamlin Park School 74 signed a pledge to create and achieve two financial goals within the next year.

Nate Lopez, 11, wants to save enough money to cover school supplies for next year.

Quinnshona Douglas, 10, wants to get a head start on her college fund.

Tatiana Baker, 11, hopes that with some savvy saving, she'll be able to afford a new Nintendo DSi gaming system.

The students, in grades 5 and 6, are participants in an after-school financial literacy course put together as a joint outreach initiative by Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, and Child and Adolescent Treatment Services.

The five- to 10-week program covers topics such as creating and maintaining a budget, the difference between needs and wants, saving, investing and setting up bank accounts.

The program focuses on reaching youths in the inner-city who come from families with low incomes.

"A lot of these kids are in generational poverty and grow up thinking it's normal. Once they learn different concepts, they can build on them and start creating a different path," said Leslie Tunmore, an AmeriCorps VISTA worker who teaches the course.

The program has been introduced into five schools and the Gloria J. Parks Community Center. It has also been replicated for Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo, Western New York United Against Drugs & Alcohol's Summer Leadership Institute and Renaissance House, and has reached more than 1,000 youths since 2011.

The lessons seem to be sticking.

Several students have opened bank accounts since the course began. Their lives have changed in other little ways, too.

Michael Malahoo, 10, never counted his change at the cash register or looked at his receipt before learning how to do so in the course.

"When you go to the corner store, you have to count your money before you leave and make sure they gave you the right stuff," Malahoo said.

Children perform very well on assessment tests given after the course, as well.

"We did a 'Jeopardy'-style review before the test, and they were just blowing me away," Tunmore said. "They remembered so much, even going back to the first week of class."