College Success Fund ‘Planting Seeds of Hope’

This Glendale 1st-grader hopes to use the $50 from the Student Success Fund to attend college and become a veterinarian, saying, “When I make animals feel better, I feel happy.”

Amid the requisite challenging financial news that accompanies every meeting in the COVID-19 era, the Glendale Unified School District launched a truly uplifting program on Thursday evening that pierced through the typical report of budget deficits and dwindling reserves.
It’s called the College Success Fund, a long-awaited new initiative that will provide each 1st-grader within GUSD with a $50 savings account to begin the long financial road toward post-secondary education.
“We have been waiting for this day for some time now,” said board President Armina Gharpetian in starting the virtual meeting. “This is to assure that every child has the tools they need to achieve their dreams.”
And dream they did. In an accompanying video shown during the meeting that canvassed dozens of GUSD 1st-graders, the career goals were expressed fast and furious: a police officer, astronaut, architect, fashion designer, paleontologist, eye doctor, veterinarian, “Oscar-winning” actress, deep sea diver and microbiologist.
One intrepid young man said he wants “to work at 7-Eleven,” but after a couple seconds of reflection added that he hopes to “be the boss at 7-Eleven.”
Yes, kids say the darndest things. But now they might have the funds to back up their dreams. GUSD experimented with a pilot program that allowed it to apply to the state for an “Every Kid Counts” grant. The $50 will be placed into a 529 — a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future education costs — for each of the 2,048 current 1st-graders. Anyone can contribute to the account, but the funds can only be liquidated for college or career planning.
“This is our way of empowering our students to reach for the stars,” said Gharpetian. “We are sending a clear message that our district and the board of education is here to support their growth in the years to come. Although the amount of the investment may not seem like much, we are planting the seeds today to grow our future leaders, doctors, scientists and educators for tomorrow.”
School board clerk Nayiri Nahabedian has championed the program for years, and referenced studies that show young people are more likely to succeed in higher education if they have some money earmarked for expenses.
“When kids have a savings account, even a modest amount, it changes the way they think about the future,” she said. “Expectations rise and mental health, hope, confidence and inspiration also rise for our students. We are planting seeds of hope.”
Nahabedian thanked the Glendale Educational Foundation for its contributions to the program.
Under the plan, GUSD will be the owner of a master account, with 1st-grade students listed as shareholders. Parents may opt out of the program, in which case the funds would be returned to the master account. Parents are encouraged to contribute to a parallel account if they choose. In order to withdraw the contribution from GUSD, the recipient student must graduate from GUSD and the money is transferred to the college of attendance or career training program. Should a recipient student leave GUSD before graduating, the contribution is returned to the master account.
Also presenting at the meeting were Wesley Walton, CEO, and Raffi Ashdjian, director of Marketing and Business Development, both of the Glendale Area Schools Credit Union, and Ed Kashadourian, principal of Opportunity to Assets.
Board members Shant Sahakian, Greg Krikorian and Jennifer Freemon provided video statements at the meeting, Freemon lauding the program that “will set our kids up for long-term success.”
“It is no secret that financial literacy is an important part of preparing every student for success in college, career and life,” said Nahabedian.”
One 1st-grader already seems to have a solid sense of accounting, saying on the video tribute she is happy to be getting “the 5 ten dollars” that will be going into her piggybank.
The darndest things, indeed.

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