Organization encourages parents to save for kindergartners' future educations

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Josh Henggeler usually doesn’t think about college for his kids. The oldest is in kindergarten, after all.

However, after attending an event hosted by a local organization that’s trying to help parents start college funds, he started to think differently.

“It makes you stop for a second and say, ‘Oh wait — future,’” he said.

The organization is called Student Educational and Economic Development Success. BooneSaves is its first initiative, which is aimed at parents of kindergartners who want to save money for higher education.

The organization held a meeting Tuesday for parents of Benton STEM Elementary kindergartners interested in the program.

Judy Baker, a former Missouri representative, founded the organization in summer 2017 after campaigning made her aware of programs that help people save for the future.

“I saw a need for closing the wealth gap and offering kids a chance to build assets,” Baker said.

Parents at both Benton and Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary, the pilot schools for the program, can start a College/Career Incentive Savings Account through BooneSaves.

BooneSaves gives each account $50, and parents enrolled can gain up to $260 a year through completing incentives such as a 90 percent attendance rate for the child and attending parent-teacher conferences, Baker said.

The program could act in conjunction with MOST 529, another state savings program for parents and their children. If parents open a MOST account, half of the money deposited in the account will be matched by the organization and added to the child’s BooneSaves account.

Then, the child can use the money after high school graduation for four-year colleges, two-year colleges, trade schools, vocational schools or technical schools. If the money is not used within five years of graduation, the money is given back to the fund for their school, Baker said.

Since the pilot schools started the program last spring, parents have created about 40 savings accounts, Baker said. About half a dozen parents attended the event Tuesday, and many started filling out the paperwork.

The organization raised the money needed for the class, and it plans to reach out to the community to raise the incentive money. Baker said it will do personal appeals, events and use its new program KidStart to get the community involved and help the children.

Tuesday was the first day KidStart was available to parents. Through the program, parents have the opportunity to sponsor accounts for other children. Every $50 donated can open a new account.

The organization received a $51,000 grant from the Boone County Children’s Services Fund for programming costs. Boone Electric Cooperative also gave money to help create the website.

The organization plans to expand the program to Columbia Public Schools and five Boone County rural schools. Baker said it has reached out to Ashland Elementary and Chance Elementary so far.

The organization currently doesn’t have a date set for its next enrollment night.

“We’ve got four kind of in the pipeline but haven’t set dates yet,” Baker said.

Supervising editor is Sky Chadde: news@columbiamissourian.com, 882-5720.

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