Penny-Smart Kids informs, entertains 330 preschool children

As Victoria and Dayna read, the circle closed in on them, tighter and tighter. But it was a good sign: the Koalas were into it.

Victoria Martin and Dayna Ford, employees of Bottomline Technologies, were sitting in the pre-kindergarten Koala classroom of Great Bay Kids’ Company in Portsmouth, participating in a unique volunteer opportunity from United Way of the Greater Seacoast.

Penny-Smart Kids is United Way’s newest volunteer-powered program, an early learning initiative designed to equip young children with starter concepts of money, spending and saving.

“Penny-Smart Kids is another example of United Way’s commitment to building a stronger community,” said Cindy Boyd, Managing Director of United Way of the Greater Seacoast.  “Along with our early education friends and partners and companies like Bottomline Technologies, which supported the program, United Way is making a difference at an early age.”

60 volunteers from 21 companies journeyed to ten early childhood education agencies to read the book “A Dollar for Penny” and do follow-up activities with the children. The book told the story of a young girl opening up a lemonade stand and the activities built upon the rudimentary economic lessons.

“It was really fun,” Dayna Ford. “I’m glad that United Way took the initiative to develop a program that talked to the kids about money, concepts that will hopefully stay with them for a long time.”

Victoria Martin had volunteered with United Way before, serving during the annual Day of Caring, but Penny-Smart Kids offered a brand new perspective.

“I didn’t realize there were opportunities like this to get right into a classroom,” she said. “It was exciting to teach the kids about having and saving money.”

Prior to their the deployment to the classrooms, the volunteers were trained at the United Way office, learning how to engage the children and what concepts to emphasize. By the end of the day over 300 children in 21 classrooms were reached with the Penny-Smart message.

“The volunteers were very engaged and kept the kids entertained,” said Jen George, Lead Preschool Teacher for Great Bay Kids’Company. “It’s always nice to have other people come in to the classroom.”

How long these concepts will stick with the kids as they fill their piggy banks remains to be seen; but when the crayons and paper and scissors were being put away and the volunteers were set to leave, everyone within earshot was heartened by the little boy who spontaneously said: “I’m going to save up to buy my mom a card!”

Special thanks to Botttomline Technologies for sponsoring Penny-Smart Kids!

Victoria Martin, left, and Dayna Ford, employees of Bottomline Technologies read to students of the Great Bay Kids’ Company location at Pease International Tradeport.