Skip to main content

A Powerful Moment in the Children's Saving Story

Ernestine with student savers in Hope Credit Union (source: Megan Thompson & WNET)

A couple of weeks ago, WNET’s Need to Know feature on the Mississippi College Savings Account Program, one of two 1:1 Fund pilot sites, aired nationally on PBS. Recently, we spoke with Ernestine Bilbrew, VP of Program Development for the Mississippi Community Financial Access Coalition (MCFAC), to hear how the Need to Know segment impacted her and the MS College Savings Account Program.

How was it having the ‘Need to Know’ film crew in Jackson, MS?

I think it was a really good experience for all of us that are part of the Mississippi College Savings Account Program – MCFAC, our partners, the children, our parents. With the early childhood development centers, the way they got involved and made each of the activities work – visits to the bank, parent workshops, the grocery store a field trip to Jackson State – it was amazing. We were able to capture the whole essence of the program. It highlighted the early childhood development centers and parents, who are central to the program. It was very educational for all of us, but a really positive experience for the centers and parents, as it captured their great participation and they were the key focus of the segment.

What was the most powerful part of the few days of filming for you?

Wow, several parts of those few days really moved me. First of all, when the kids went to the bank. Many of the students stood up on the stool, and would say they wanted to make a deposit. Then, the children would sign their name to show what they were doing, and make the deposit official. For me, this was very telling – these kids had taken ownership of their savings account.

Also, on the tour of Jackson State, the kids had so many questions – they wanted to know everything that was going on at the college, from the different subjects taught in buildings to where students would go to eat.

Then, with the parent session one evening at Jones Early Childhood Development Center, all of it really hit home. I did not realize the type of effect the program was having on parents, who were really proud that they were taking steps to help their children build a better future. That had to be one of the most powerful moments when parents were talking about how much the program had helped and motivated them.

What did you learn from the filming and overall experience?

I did not realize the impact that the program had on parents. Even though it is a children’s savings program, and we were more or less focused on the kids, I did not realize that we were having such a large impact on parents. Hearing parents say they felt very good about helping their kid go to college and reach their dreams, it was very inspiring.

And, it highlighted some of the gaps of our program, specifically around the need to work with parents more. One takeaway for us was the need to really focus on supporting and engaging parents.

Will this film be helpful to the MS CSA Program? If so, how?

It is already having a positive effect – others in our community now want to be involved. Other early childhood development centers, Head Start programs and other partners want to help grow the Mississippi College Savings Account Program, or are using our program as a potential model to replicate. Also, we are going to use the segment as a way of telling our story, and how child savings programs can really energize kids and their parents.