Twenty-year-old Ebony Huff didn't think much about her personal finances.
That's until last week when she sat in a finance literacy class conducted by Harry Lindsey, a retired educator.
Lindsey taught the students about compound interest and the importance of saving for a rainy day. He recommended they read books like "The Richest Man in Babylon" to learn how to invest and manage their funds.
When it was over, Huff had a new attitude.
"I really think I needed to hear that because it has been hard for me to save," said the 2012 Hardaway High School graduate who is now studying to be a medical assistant at First Step Health Agency. "As a young adult, you always want to get what you want. You see it, and if you've got the money, you're going to get it. It doesn't matter how much it costs. Now, I feel like having a savings account is very, very important because anything can happen."
The financial literacy class is part of an Urban League of Greater Columbus Summer Youth Employment and Job Readiness Program for high school and college students. Huff was among 30 students chosen from 130 applicants to participate in the six-week program.
The first week, the students spent five days attending job readiness workshops. In addition to financial literacy, they learned about customer service, work ethics, business etiquette, professional attire, resume building, interviewing techniques and speaking with confidence.
The second week, they began working at local small businesses, corporations and nonprofit organizations to gain extensive work experience, which will continue for another four weeks. The Urban League paid the students' wages.
The group also worked as youth counselors for the Urban League's Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Kids Camp, which was held last week at the organization's education and community resources building.
In addition to the two programs, the Urban League held a STEM Medical Camp for youths interested in going into the medical field. Through that program, students toured Columbus Regional Healthcare System, St. Francis Hospital, Tree of Life Health Care Center, Columbus State University, the Dr. Robert L. Wright Jr. Health Sciences Center, Morehouse School of Medicine and the Bodies Exhibit in Atlanta. Both STEM camps were funded by Bradley Turner Foundation and the youth employment and readiness program was sponsored by Aflac.
"It was a great opportunity for kids to gain exposure to science, technology, engineering and math so they could compete for the future good jobs," said Susan Cooper, the Urban League's interim president. "It's actually providing individuals and families with the tools, resources and everything that they need to have a better quality of life. We're looking out right now for our future."
Cooper said the summer programs are serving more than 150 youths. The Urban League is working in partnership with a variety of local organizations, including Girls Inc., Columbus Parks and Recreation, the Boys & Girls Club, the Liberty Theatre, Georgia Power, Pratt Recycling and ColumbusMakesIt!, a new local organization that focuses on creativity and entrepreneurship.
Trevon Jones, 16, is a rising senior at Harris County High School. Like Huff, he also is part of the Urban League Youth Employment and Job Readiness Program. He has learned many lessons.
"It's a great program because you get a lot of great experience learning how to carry yourself in the workplace," he said. "I also learned that it's best to find a career that I'm passionate about so it won't feel like a job."
Alva James-Johnson, 706-571-8521. Reach her on Facebook at AlvaJamesJohnsonLedger.