Steve Newman of Evanston Scholars speaks to students about budgeting.         Submitted photo

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On April 15, First Bank & Trust recently led a workshop on the importance of budgeting and saving for college for Evanston high school students who are part of the Evanston Scholars program.

Evanston Scholars is a non-profit organization that improves college access and success for a diverse group of ambitious Evanston students who are traditionally first-generation college entrants, low-income, and students of color, starting with the college admissions process and continuing through graduation. 

“We strongly believe in supporting the young people in our community,” said Michael Yohanan, assistant vice president-marketing at First Bank & Trust. “By teaching these students the value of savings, we are helping them develop tools that will help them be successful throughout their lives, as well as supporting their dreams of going to college.”

A total of 29 Evanston Scholars, all juniors, participated in the workshop, where they learned the basics of personal finance, such as the difference between a savings account and a checking account, the difference between fixed bills and discretionary spending, and the impact of bank fees.

 Claudia Palacios, a personal banker with First Bank & Trust, said that while most of these students will receive college scholarships for tuition, they may still have to pay for things like room and board, clothes, food and other expenses on their own. “There is usually at least a $2,000 gap in what the scholarships won’t cover,” she said.

 The three First Bank & Trust employees who led the workshop – Ms. Palacios, Peter McGuire and Suzi Miller – offered to answer any financial questions the students had on an ongoing basis.

As part of the workshop, the First Bank & Trust employees demonstrated to the students how many hours it would take them to save $2,000 if they worked at a job where they earned minimum wage. “Many times students see a figure of $2,000 and think that is unobtainable, and they just want to give up,” Ms. Palacios said. “What we tried to show them was if you put just a little bit of money away each week, you can save up a lot of money in no time.”

Steve Newman, executive director of Evanston Scholars, said he was very pleased with the partnership with First Bank & Trust.

“If you’re a low-income student and you’re trying to get out of the low-income bracket, getting to college is the most important step, but paying for it is important, too,” he said. “By giving them these skills, we hope to help them finish college.”

To encourage students to save, First Bank & Trust offered $25 to each student who opened a savings account, and any student who saves at least $200 by July will receive an additional $25 from Evanston Scholars.