Amid news of Congress declaring April “Financial Literacy Month,” the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program — a flagship collaboration between the Boston Bar Association and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts — this month celebrates its seventh year of providing high school students with a four session program designed to help them make smart choices about credit and avoid bankruptcy.
“We don’t want people to be our customers,” says U.S. Bankruptcy Judge and President-Elect of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges Joan N. Feeney. “We want to help them avoid financial trouble.”
Since the program began in 2005, co-chairs Judge Feeney and Boston bankruptcy attorney Janet Bostwick quickly recruited volunteer lawyers to go into the classrooms for the first three sessions and then stage a mock “relief from stay hearing” for the final session, held at the Bankruptcy Court. Dubbed the “consequences session,” the trip to Bankruptcy Court is designed to teach students exactly what happens when an individual goes through a consumer bankruptcy.
First piloted at a Boston Public high school in Dorchester, MA, the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program has reached more than 49 schools throughout Massachusetts and some 1500 students. One of the first in the nation programs of its type, the program has twice been profiled in The Boston Globe, and was highlighted at a National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges. Since the program began, more than 385 lawyers have volunteered to teach the classes.
“Long after Financial Literacy Month is over, we will be planning for the financial literacy program we teach the high school students participating in the Summer Jobs/Enrichment Program the BBA conducts in partnership with the Boston Public Schools,” said Bostwick. “In addition, we are in the process of updating our curriculum to ensure that it reflects current consumer habits and law.”
The M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy receives funding from the Charles P. Normandin Fund of the Boston Bar Foundation.