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'The stakes are really high':

Ashley Luthern, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Nov 11, 2021

Inside the growing movement to teach financial literacy to every Milwaukee kid

It’s just before noon on a Monday in June.
The sky is brilliant blue, the streaks of white clouds betraying no trace of the thunderstorms from the night before, when a tornado touched down near Chicago.

A group of teens huddles around a plot at Alice’s Garden in Milwaukee filled with tidy rows of onions, hot peppers and herbs. A tray of colorful petunias and marigolds sits off to the side.

“Why do we need bees?” asks Shane Woodruff, one of the group’s adult leaders that day.

“To pollinate,” replies 15-year-old Daeshawn Matthews.

Woodruff plucks bits of the herbs, rubs them between his fingers and passes them around the group, asking the teens to smell the aroma and guess what each is. After identifying thyme, rosemary and dill, the group gets to work.

Takiyah Dates, 15, and Emahriyah Jackson, 13, gently loosen purple and pink petunias from their containers and nestle them into the turned-up soil. Later this week, they’ll get their first paycheck.

“Don’t try to spend a lot at once,” Takiyah says of her approach to money. “You buy what you need before you buy what you want.”

The teens are part of an expanded summer jobs program from Running Rebels Community Organization. For many, it’s their first time earning a paycheck, and their mentors want to make sure they learn how to manage money, too.

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