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All Pro Dads

Today’s post comes from Mary Ann Keck, Partners for Education at Berea College Family Engagement Specialist for Jackson County. 

All-Pro_Dads_01As a Family Engagement Specialist, I am always looking for ways to involve families in the schools. I feel my job is to engage, but also give information that helps strengthen families.

Typically, when you think of parent involvement, you think of bake sales and parent teacher organizations, and in the past, it was usually the mom who attended. In today’s society there is an increase in single father households and children being raised by grandparents. To meet this need, I wanted to find a program geared toward fathers or male role models. In my research I came across All Pro Dads.

All Pro Dads was the idea of former NFL Coach Tony Dungy. Tony, his coaches, staff and NFL players wanted to show their children that they supported them academically, but due to their schedules they weren’t able to attend open house, parent teacher conferences, or other events usually held during the day or at the end of the school day. They decided the best time for them was early morning before the school day started.

All-Pro_Dads_02All Pro Dads is a breakfast club that meets one day a month at the school starting at 7AM. It lasts 45 minutes and has a set agenda. Families are welcomed and invited to eat the catered breakfast. Fathers introduce themselves and their children and tell something they are proud of about each child. This part of the program produces the most smiles. The children get to hear their fathers praise them in front of their peers and their teachers. Each month has a specific topic, such as contentment, being consistent, acceptance, etc. The topic is introduced and a video that fits the theme is played.  There is a drawing for a door prize and we always give the families discussion cards to take home. The cards are reminders of the topic and they allow the family to have ongoing conversations around the month’s theme.

I started this program at Tyner Elementary to see how it worked and if there was an interest from dads.  We started with ten families and it continues to grow each month.  The fathers are becoming more involved in the discussions with their children and with other fathers. It also gives them an opportunity to see the principal of the school, since he is the team leader!

All-Pro_Dads_03Due to the success of All Pro Dads at Tyner Elementary, I plan to implement the program in the other two elementary schools I work with as well as the middle school. I feel this program helps a dad become a bigger part of his child’s school day and strengthens the emotional bond between father and child. It also gives fathers a support network of other fathers and teachers to help increase the chance of children’s academic success and emotional well-being.

To find out more about All Pro Dads, or Mary Ann’s work with families in Jackson County, email her at Mary_Keck@berea.edu.

Make Your Tax Refund Work for You!

This month we have a special guest blogpost to help everyone think about the upcoming tax season–thanks to Tammy Greynolds and America Saves!

It’s easy for us to think of this year’s tax refund as free money coming to us courtesy of Uncle Sam. However, the truth of the matter is that the check you receive is a return of your own hard earned money. And since you’re going to get your own money back, why not use it to get ahead of your financial goals?

In 2014, sixty-nine percent of those polled by American Consumer Credit Counseling indicated that they had used their tax refund to pay down debt and get ahead on monthly expenses, including rent, utilities, and car payments. In 2013, twenty-six percent indicated they would put their refund into savings, while forty-five percent said they would use it to pay down credit card debt. The National Retail Federation saw that forty-six percent of its 2014 survey respondents intended to cushion their emergency savings with their returns, with nearly six in 10 young adults between 18 and 24 putting their refunds into savings.

The results of these surveys are indicative of a growing, budget-friendly and money-savvy trend: Americans are opting out of tax-time splurging and are focusing on getting ahead. Here are a few easy ways to get yourself set up for success as tax season approaches:

  • Take advantage of a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. VITA programs offer free tax help to those who generally make $53,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English speakers. Qualified individuals can receive basic income tax return preparation assistance from IRS-certified volunteers.
  • Use Form 8888 to split your refund.  Why rack up more debt on your credit card in an emergency when you can set aside savings to cover it interest-free? The IRS provides taxpayers with multiple avenues to receive and save their refunds. Take advantage of direct deposit to your checking account to pay off debts and automatically deposit a portion of your refund to your savings account.
  • Need more inspiration to save? Enter to win with SaveYourRefund. SaveYourRefund has 101 cash prizes, including 100 weekly prizes of $100 and one grand prize of $25,000.
  • Take the America Saves pledge to make a commitment to yourself to save. Get emails to keep yourself motivated and/or sign up for text message reminders to get tips and advice about your savings goals.

We know that making smart financial decisions isn’t always easy. So whether you’re just starting to look at ways to get ahead in 2015 or are already planning to put your refund towards your goals, remember that your tax refund doesn’t have to go to one place. When you get your hard earned money back, put a piece of it towards paying down debts AND save some for a rainy day. It really is that easy.

Tammy Greynolds works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at americasaves.org.

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