Camp Cash teaches financial responsibility

Camp Cash, a one-week day camp hosted by the College of Human Environmental Sciences, is returning for its fifth summer starting on July 16. The camp serves to teach middle school children financial responsibility and budgeting practices. The focus isn’t only on numbers, but on practical concepts such as saving, budgeting and investing.

“We take a holistic approach,” said Jan Brakefield, the assistant professor of consumer sciences who developed and leads the camp. “Not just dollars and cents.”

The camp meets from 8:30 a.m. to noon for five days, leaving the campers with plenty of time to learn about a variety of economic principles. Brakefield said on the first day, campers are often skeptical, but as the week progresses they grow more interested and involved in the camp’s activities.

“My first impression was kind of nervous because you walk in and there are all these new people, but you end up making new friends,” said John Galbrath, who will be returning for the second time this year as a counselor and who formerly attended as a camper.

Each day, the students meet for sessions held in classrooms, computer labs and other facilities on campus. They also take a trip to a different location each day – on the first day, for instance, they travel to the SupeStore, where they make a purchase. They then discuss why they made the purchases they did.

“I want them to get a sense of what it is like to be a student on this campus,” Brakefield said. Additional locations visited include a local bank branch and Bryant-Denny Stadium.

To qualify, students must be middle-school age, have an A/B average, have an interest in math and be motivated to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the camp. Some campers, like John Galbrath, even return as counselors in subsequent years, where they serve alongside undergraduate and graduate students of Consumer Sciences.

“You get to do all the same stuff,” Galbrath said, “but as a counselor, you also get to help the other kids.”

Luke Dorr, a former student and Camp Cash counselor, highlighted what the experience entailed for students.

Brakefield taught most of the lessons, he said, but students could gain additional class credit for teaching a lesson themselves. Student counselors receive three hours of class credit for helping with the camp.

Brakefield said the first year she attempted Camp Cash it failed because she targeted high school students, saying that once students begin dating and driving – the “two triggers” – they lose interest in saving money. Success only came once she targeted middle schoolers.

“In the past, I’ve done two or three versions,” Brakefield said. “Some that lasted two weeks, some that were in the afternoon, and so on. One week, in the morning – this is the way that works the best.”

Galbrath feels that the camp is helping him prepare for later life.

“I really like baseball,” he said. “So that’s what I’m hoping to do. But if that doesn’t work out, I think this will help me get another job.”

“My goal at the end of the week is for them to come to the University of Alabama, to major in financial planning, and to be well-equipped to make decisions that will affect them and their families,” Brakefield said.

“The bottom line is they have a lot of fun while learning some great life skills.”

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