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Manatee Chamber of Commerce brings interactive financial literacy program to local high schools

The Manatee Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the University of South Florida and the Manatee County School District, brought Big Bank Theory, an interactive financial literacy program, to all eight public high schools in the county for the first time since 2019.

The program challenges high school seniors to think about their futures and navigate the financial responsibilities of a typical young adult.

“Part of our ongoing commitment as a community engaged institution is to foster these deep, mutually beneficial relationships within our community,” said Casey Welch, assistant regional vice chancellor in the office of external affairs and government relations at the Sarasota-Manatee campus.

Participating students received a new identity — complete with an occupation, a salary and a hypothetical spouse who may or may not contribute to the household’s annual income. Some were given dependents. Others were told they had dropped out of high school before earning a diploma. The students, then, visited 14 stations — including a USF-branded education booth — and made spending decisions, all while trying to stay within their monthly budget.   

Suzanne Gregalot volunteers at Big Bank Theory

Suzanne Gregalot

“It’s really eye opening for the students,” said Welch. “There are so many ah-ha moments.”

Welch volunteered alongside Suzanne Gregalot, assistant director for the office of admissions, and Jay Riley, senior director of corporate partnerships and external affairs, at the education booth, where students had the opportunity to add advanced degrees to their resumes and increase their earning potential.   

“This was an engaging opportunity for USF to connect with local students and demonstrate how pursuing educational opportunities is the key to unlocking their future success,” Gregalot said. “The students really are in the driver’s seat. It was fun to encourage them, help them when they got stuck or just offer helpful tips and advice.”  

Next year, the Sarasota-Manatee campus will formally apply to the Carnegie Foundation to seek the Community Engagement Classification, a prestigious designation that requires an intensive process of self-study and recognizes institutional commitment to community and civic engagement. Ongoing partnerships like this contribute and strengthen the campus’s application portfolio. 

In the spring, the Sarasota-Manatee campus will again partner with the Manatee Chamber of Commerce to host Project TEACH, a program that brings local business professionals into fourth-grade classrooms to help students explore different career opportunities — and the steps required to achieve them. 

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