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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

High school students get lesson in finance

Goal of the HOPE program is to give life lessons to students, make them self-sufficient, and help them find money for higher education, including through employment.



KINGSPORT — A group of area high school students got a lesson in personal finance Monday afternoon at a local bank, plus $10 to open a savings account there.

It was part of the inaugural HOPE Educational Summit for 2011-12 in which 25 Kingsport area high school students are participating.

Stella Robinette, president of the nonprofit HOPE — which stands for Help Our Potential Evolve — said the goal of the new program is to give life lessons to students, make them selfsufficient, and help them find money for higher education, including through employment.

“They are our future leaders right here,” Robinette told the group of students and some of the sponsors and presenters of the program at TriSummit Bank in downtown Kingsport.

Monday’s class, taught by Cindy Lemons, TriSummit consumer relationship manager at the downtown branch, was a basic primer in personal finance, explaining about checking accounts, savings accounts and other financial basics.

Robinette told the group that after the $10, the students had to earn the money that went into the savings account.

“This is something that is a huge hole out there in the school systems, education,” Ted Fields, executive vice president of TriSummit over the bank’s Kingsport branches, said of a lack of basic knowledge about personal finance.

Lynn Shipley, founder, president and CEO of TriSummit, said his son got a rude awakening with his first paycheck because of the taxes, insurance and other deductions from his check.

“He called and said, ‘What’s all this stuff?’ ” Shipley said of deductions from a paycheck. “You need to understand personal finance.”

TriSummit is a sponsor of the program, as is the city of Kingsport, Eastman Chemical Co., the Wal-Mart on Fort Henry Drive, the Kingsport Firefighters Association, and Mark Freeman and Associates, an architectural firm, as well as others, Robinette said.

Some of the students have connections with the Boys and Girls Club and Girls Inc.

“My hat is off to Stella Robinette and TriSummit Bank for their involvement in this most worthwhile project,” Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips said. “Any advantage we can give to our young citizens is well worth the time and effort involved.”

Victoria Price, 16 and a junior at Dobyns-Bennett High School, volunteers to help at Girls Inc. She plans to go to college and earn a degree in social work.

Sierra Evans, 17 and a D-B senior, is captain of the color guard of the D-B marching band.

“I look forward to going and visiting the colleges” and looking into fund-raising opportunities for college, Evans said.

She said her plans are to go to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and study to become a physician’s assistant.

Robinette said HOPE grew out of an annual Black History Month celebration and became a 501(c)3 not-for-profit group about a year ago and recently adopted a logo.

The 25 students, ages 14-18, are of various backgrounds, races, religious denominations and locations, including two from Sullivan North High School, one from Volunteer High School and the rest from D-B.

Robinette said the requirements for being eligible for a slot in the program are that the students pay attention, listen, be ready to become leaders, and have no disciplinary problems or other such troubles in their background.

Firefighter Kevin Mitchell of the Kingsport Firefighters Association is to teach the students CPR, and they also will get child care and lifeguard skill classes and visit a Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.

In addition, they are to go to seminars on how to fill out a job application, put together a résumé, apply for college, and learn about possible grants and scholarships.

Robinettte said the plan in the spring is for the group to stop at as many universities and colleges as possible from Kingsport to Nashville, including Vanderbilt University and Tennessee State University in Nashville.

Also, Gray-based Town & Country Realtors agent Lisa Lohoff is to give students input on buying their first homes.

In addition to the educational summit, Robinette said HOPE will continue to hold job fairs and help with job hunting resources for felons entering the work force.

For information on the program or applying for a slot in the program, contact Robinette at 276-6541 or 342-7505 or by e-mail at

To make a financial donation to the program, contact Lemons at 392-5631 or