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Area students learn about personal finances

Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Students across the Southern Crescent are increasing their financial vocabulary this month.

Recognized as Georgia Financial Literacy Month, April is seen by educators statewide as an opportunity to improve the money-management skills of college students and raise public awareness about the importance of a sound financial education for young adults.

At Patrick Henry High School in Stockbridge, students became more financially savvy through the school's recent three-day, financial literacy seminar.

The seminar is held each semester in conjunction with First National Bank of Griffin, which provides representatives to help teach students about earning good credit, banking practices, and personal finance.

As a participant in the American Bankers Association's National Teach Children to Save Program, the First National Bank of Griffin will also have representatives visit local elementary schools to discuss the importance of savings.

Clayton State University, too, recently hosted a financial literacy seminar through the National Student Loan Program (NSLP), called "Your Credit Life Story."

"It's more critical than ever that college students have the skills they need to make good financial choices, not only while they're in school, but for the rest of their lives," said NSLP President Randy Heesacker.

"I really didn't know as much about credit cards before the seminar," said Johnna Woolbright, a senior at Patrick Henry. "Learning how to budget my money was probably the most important thing I learned."

She said she has seen some in her extended family go through financial difficulties - something she would rather not go through herself.

Woolbright, who aspires to become a nurse, said she wants to create solid personal budget habits for herself, so she is not left holding much debt later on in life.

"We're trying to help our students become better citizens, and [understand] how to be responsible citizens," said Don Dunlap, Patrick Henry's business education instructor, who coordinated the seminar.

Identity theft, online safety

State Sen. Gail Buckner (D-Morrow) spoke to some 40 students at Patrick Henry on Wednesday about her job as a legislator and her interest in stopping identity theft. She warned them to be mindful of their credit card usage, and to be cautious of the people with whom they do business.

"That is the fastest-growing crime in our country," Buckner said. "If a person is a victim of identity theft, it could take them years and years, and thousands of dollars, to recover."

Identity theft is growing as more people manage their finances online, according to Nick Forcier, the CEO of Large Software, a software protection and products company.

"People have so many different accounts online right now, and they're using the same username and passwords for those accounts," Forcier said.

Forcier offered these tips for keeping one's identity safe online:

· Never use personal information to create a user-name, login or password;

· Avoid using the same login and password across multiple web sites or cards and accounts;

· Create longer, more difficult passwords in order to improve the cipher strength of your password;

· Avoid sequential passwords or using only look-alike substitutions of numbers or symbols like '@.'

Students, personal finance

Sen. Buckner said she believed Patrick Henry's financial literacy seminar served to connect students with the real world of finance they would otherwise only learn through first-hand experience.

"I think the First National Bank of Griffin is certainly doing a great service to the community by going out to schools and educating the students," Buckner said. "It's a great exposure for the students to hear from these [expert] individuals."