Op-Ed: Bonnie Finley–Guest Editorial

Councilmember Bonnie Finley (photo courtesy of Bonnie Finley)

As a member of the Longmont City Council, I am honored to be a part of a project that is truly inspiring.  It is about the future success of our children and you can be a part of it too.

Kids need someone to believe in them in order to succeed.  What if a whole city believed in them?  That is what 529 Jump is all about.  It is a community effort to provide Longmont children with a jumpstart in saving for their future education.

It is known that children with a 529 college savings account are 7 times more likely to attend some type of post-secondary education.  With this statistic in mind, we formed a committee to explore what we could do as a community to encourage parents to open a 529 account for their kids. The 529 committee was made up of a dozen community leaders who wanted to provide that encouragement by providing matching funds up to $50 for each Kindergartner in Longmont.  With the help of CollegeInvest, we discovered that we are the first community in Colorado to do this.  Plans have been made to start this year with the Kindergartners in the schools that have the greatest need.  With the permission of the St. Vrain Valley Schools and help from CollegeInvest, we will have volunteers help Kindergarten parents open a 529 account and then the Education Foundation of the St. Vrain Valley will be the fiscal agent in providing the match.  Longmont City Council provided seed money of $25,000 from their Council Contingency Fund to get this program off and running.  We are counting on the rest of the community to provide ongoing funds to continue the program for all Kindergarteners.  Please consider making a donation at 529Jump.org for Longmont’s future!

Is this a big project?  Yes.  But what could be more important than the future of our children?   If the parents of our Kindergartners have the expectation that their kids will graduate from high school and then have the financial ability to continue their education, the kids will have that same expectation.  If the parents and kids know that their community values them so much that it sees this as an important goal for them, they will too.   And who knows, maybe we can raise enough money so that we can match the funds again.  I hope so.  Our future depends on it.

I would like to thank the committee members for their selfless contributions to this project: Josh Atherton, Executive Director of the Education Foundation for the St. Vrain Valley, Matthew Wiggins, Director of Community & Business Development of St. Vrain Valley Schools, Audrey Seybold, Principal of Columbine Elementary, Michelle Sulek, Community Development Manager of Elevations Credit Union, Eric Hozempa, Executive Director of the Longmont Community Foundation, Brennan Hannon, Advisor Relations Manager, CollegeInvest, Brady Steffl, Grants Consultant, Scott Cook, CEO, Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce, Carrie Adams, Program Director, Silver Creek Leadership Academy, Margarita Finley, Touchpoint Marketing and my fellow Councilmember, Tim Waters.

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  1. I think it’s likely the scope of education (and the number of kids this age) who attend college is very likely to change before these kids would enter. College is out of reach for many people because the cost of tuition is tied to the amount of money students and parents can borrow. Already the face of education is changing and I hope in 12 years we’ll have seen some very necessary updates to the education model. This could be a waste of $.

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