The cycle of poverty may not be broken with this generation. There is greater likelihood that the principles learned and long-range efforts undertaken that children of Delaware County Circles members will not be struggling financially.
Circles operates Youth Enrichment for Circle Leaders’ children at each Thursday night meal session. While staff helps to plan what the children will study and how they will focus, it is a unique partnership with Ball State University that gives life to the program. Dr. Melinda Messineo, chairman of the Sociology department at BSU, envisioned a community laboratory in which her students could experience the challenges of different cultural groups. In a for-credit internship, students from sociology, social work, and sometimes other disciplines work with Circles’ children for at least one semester.
The internship has been a rich experience for the children. Not only do they get to hear about what going to college is like, but they are working and interacting with students who have been trained in understanding issues of generational poverty.
In the summer of 2015 the children studied about Muncie and learned about the city’s history as part of the community Sesquicentennial.
Among the enrichment modules that the students teach is Financial Empowerment. Children 5-18 fill out an application for Thursday night jobs, go through an interview and then take on a seven-week employment opportunity which might range from setting up chairs to helping pass out give-away food at the end of the evening. For these jobs, they receive $25 to be deposited in their savings accounts, established with them when they get their first jobs at TEAMwork. Other financial literacy focus includes summer entrepreneurial projects that the youth do in teams. In addition, they win “Circles Bucks,” a kind of play money for good behavior, good manners, kindness to others, etc. Those “dollars” enable them to purchase items in the Circles’ store which offers an assortment of toys and items that they can buy for themselves or purchase for siblings or parents.
The financial literacy program for children was developed by the Center for Economics at BSU. Other financial literacy information used by Circles and taught to other agencies in the community was developed by Dr. Mark Myring in the department of accounting.