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Scarlet to Black Financial Literacy Program Attracts Kays Foundation Support


JONESBORO – Funding from the Kays Foundation creates new opportunities for the Scarlet to Black Financial Literacy Program at Arkansas State University.

The ASU System Board of Trustees passed a resolution in March, formally naming the program in recognition of the foundation’s support for the program.

“We are very pleased to provide this endowment to establish the Kays Foundation Scarlet to Black Program for Financial Independence,” said Terry Carty, executive vice president of the Kays Foundation. “The endowment, our second grant to this program, along with annual commitments will total $450,000 and is to be spread over five years.”

Scarlet to Black is a student-led financial wellness program that serves students in K-16 and beyond. The goal is to empower students with the knowledge and tools to reach their financial goals, according to Dr. Philip Tew, associate professor of finance who directs the program and the Center for Economic Education and Financial Literacy.

“Our first grant to the Scarlet to Black Program allowed Dr. Tew to hire student workers to help him introduce financial literacy to K-12 students in the Arkansas Delta and A-State students.  Since that time, the program and offerings have expanded to include podcasts, workshops and financial wellness bootcamps for incoming first-semester students on campus.  The Kays Foundation board members are unanimous in their support for this very worthy program.”

New funding will support an assistant director for the next five years to help grow the program and “to capitalize on the momentum we have gained in the past few years,” Tew explained. The remainder of the grant will generate interest to fund ongoing programming and activities.

“The program has gone from being a literal ‘one-man shop’ of me attempting to talk with as many student groups and classes as possible about financial wellness and independence to now employing 12 students,” Tew noted.

Graduate students involved in program leadership include Hailey Hawkins of Cabot and Melanie Ricker of Corning.

Seniors Roxana Flores of Jonesboro and Kristina Garlington of Benton, along with Alyssa Pettit of Norfork, Emily Pillow of Marmaduke, Layla Highfill of Cabot, Austin Murray of Jonesboro and Lindsey Storey of Benton are students in the Neil Griffin College of Business. Emily Sechrest of Norfork and Jalene Tolbert of Russellville are students in the College of Education and Behavioral Science, and Alexia Rodriguez of Jonesboro is in the College of Sciences and Mathematics.

The range of Scarlet to Black’s educational programming is extensive.

“We have grown to include financial podcasts written, performed and produced by students; financial wellness blogs written by students; short and medium length videos created by students discussing different aspects of financial wellness; multiple on-campus presentations; one-on-one financial counseling by students for students; an after-school program that focuses on children from grades one through six; and two annual on-campus conferences and competitions for third through sixth graders.

During the current academic year, these programs have brought more than 300 students to the A-State campus. Youngsters and A-State students are among Scarlet to Black’s intended audience because of the importance of developing financial literacy early in life.

“We have multiple target audiences: Our primary is, and always will be, A-State students, with a special emphasis on our first-year students,” the associate professor of finance continued. The sooner we can get these students thinking about their own financial wellness and independence, the better it will be in the long term.”

“We also try to improve the financial wellness and independence of our fellow northeast Arkansas community members by working with elementary students, high schools, civic organizations, private industry, and whomever else would like for us to come work with their groups.”

In addition to the “hands-on” work the student leaders do, they also perform lots of research regarding the financial wellness of college students, health literacy, poverty and other areas that have financial impact.

In addition to handling the podcasts, blogs, videos, assisting with the conferences, and the after-school program, “ . . . university students also perform research in the subject matter. Their work has been showcased at local, regional and national conferences,” the faculty member added.

Scarlet to Black seminar participants
Lex Leonard and Melanie Ricker lead a campus session on financial literacy, an important and timely topic, especially for university students.