MLK Day of Service: Children learn finances through agriculture

BY JEFFREY ZANKER, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Sheena Qualles De-Freece has experienced plenty of people enter adulthood without the proper financial skills.

After serving two decades working as a debt collector and a commercial asset recovery specialist, De-Freece noticed that poor money management is the key factor to foreclosures and car repossession.

“You’re thrown out there, and it becomes trial and error,” De-Freece said.

She believes that the education system does not place enough emphasis on financial literacy, many students not learning about it until the latter part of high school.

“By high school, you already have these principles about money,” she said, noticing that the younger generation now “don’t balance their checkbooks anymore and use their credit cards endlessly, which will cause a lot of hardship unnecessarily.”

De-Freece later became a middle school teacher in language arts and history. After retiring in 2013, she started Kidzonomics® in New Jersey, using her past careers to educate children from five to 15 years old on financial literacy.

“I had this inkling to teach kids about money because we all fall into these traps when we are adults, saying ‘I wish I knew that earlier’ and ‘I wish somebody told me that,’” De-Freece said.

Recently, she infused agriculture and horticulture into the program, emphasizing budget and economics.

De-Freece feels that living in an area with an “abundance of sunlight,” a hands-on activity such as gardening can enhance the learning experience, and the children are excited about growing their own food.

The program has recently harvested around 400 sweet potatoes in the last four months at different locations around the city such as Pinellas Technical College.

“You don’t have to go to the store for food that you can grow in your own backyard.”

Kidzonomic®, LLC, will participate in the 2019 MLK Day of Service with one project held on two separate days at different locations.

This Saturday, Jan. 12, they will take part in “Transformed: Community Unity Day,” hosted by High Profile Motivational Services, Inc. and held across from the Laos Multicultural Center located at 1150 49th St. N from 9:30-4:30 p.m. Members of St. Pete Time Bank and St. Petersburg Plant Society will be on hand.

The event includes two workshops, incorporating gardening and math. In the first session, “Sweet Potatoes Economics,” children can learn to grow sweet potatoes and weigh them to calculate the price by the pound.

“Doing the math by getting their hands dirty,” De-Freece said, explaining the learning process.

The second workshop titled “3Rs of Kitchen Scrap Gardening” will teach children how to regrow various fruit and vegetables from small leftovers. Garden tools and supplies will be handed out to help start home gardens.

Approximately 600 financial literacy and gardening books will be distributed, including

“Black Inventors,” a coloring book focusing on past African-American pioneers and entrepreneurs. Other activities include story time about little-known black entrepreneurs, and creating piggy banks out of water containers.

Kidzonomics® will also take part in the MLK Dream Big Family Fun Day at Tropicana Field on Monday, Jan. 21 after the parade with the same activities.

De-Freece suggests parents find time to sit down with their children and discuss budgeting, “so later in life that experience would sink in,” she finished.

To reach Jeffrey Zanker, email jzanker@theweeklychallenger.com

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