Now in its 16th year, the Nelson Fellows Program has developed a reputation as a jewel in the crown of public service programs offered at Boston’s John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse. Named for Judge David S. Nelson, the first African-American appointed to the federal judiciary for the District of Massachusetts, the Nelson Fellowship is a summer enrichment program for high school students with demonstrated leadership potential from the cities of Boston, Brockton and Worcester. This year, in addition to working in the chambers of the judges to whom they are assigned, and attending trials and other court events — as well as classes in subject areas such as civil rights, literature, and writing — the Nelson Fellows will participate in the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program .
“Financial literacy is an essential skill that is not necessarily being taught to these students in their schools,” said U.S. District Judge Denise J. Casper. “The program is a good opportunity to introduce them to the concepts of budgeting, personal finance and other important life skills.”
In 2005 — amid concerns that students were graduating from college carrying significant credit card balances at the same time their college loans were coming due, and then filing for bankruptcy — the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts in partnership with the Boston Bar Association launched the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program. The curriculum was designed by bankruptcy attorneys and features sessions taught by lawyer volunteers. A U.S. Bankruptcy judge presides over the finale, a mock bankruptcy hearing.
The Nelson Fellow will participate in a modified program with a two hour classroom session and then the mock hearing or “consequences module” conducted at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Adding the financial literacy program to their calendar of activities came about when Judge Casper made a personal request to Chief Judge Frank Bailey of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts.
“We are delighted to offer the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program to the Nelson Fellows,” said U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Dein. “Learning to make prudent credit choices is a valuable skill for all students, rich or poor.”
Since its beginning the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program — with the help of more than 450 volunteers — has reached more than 1700 high school students in more than 60 Massachusetts classrooms from inner city to affluent suburb.
The M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program receives funding from the Boston Bar Foundation, the charitable affiliate of the Boston Bar Association.