Rachael Williams, a student in OU's Master of Public Administration program, spearheaded an effort to secure a $65,175 grant for the Troy Public Library. The grant is supported by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Investor Education Foundation and the American Library Association as part of Smart investing@your library, a nationwide program that provides library patrons with access to effective and unbiased financial education resources.
The program is designed to help high school students and their parents establish a financial plan for college and beyond. The project will offer 19 seminars covering a variety of topics, including budgeting and personal banking, paying for college, navigating the financial aid process, investment considerations, appropriate use of credit and managing debt after graduation. Sessions will also emphasize the role of parents in helping students develop good financial habits.
The seminars will take place at the Troy Public Library and at three area high schools. Representatives from Oakland University, Wayne State University, Walsh College and GreenPath Debt Solutions will conduct the sessions, which will also be available online for anyone interested in learning about the topics.
“I think this is a marvelous opportunity to showcase what a public library can do for its community and to broaden the definition of 'library,' said Cathleen Russ, director of the Troy Public Library. “Everyone always thinks about books, but it’s really about information, and this program will allow the library to present a variety of valuable information to students getting ready for college and their parents. This is information that will be helpful for a lifetime. It broadens the scope of what our library is able to offer to the community.”
Along with funding the seminars, the library grant will also support paid internships for college students to assist with marketing, administering and evaluating the program. In addition, the Friends of the Troy Public Library organization is planning to partner with local businesses to fund a scholarship program for outstanding students who participate in Smart investing@your library.
Williams, who is just a few credits shy of completing her Master of Public Administration, initiated the project about a year ago after being hired by the Troy Public Library. She worked with Russ to find innovative ways to use the library's resources to support the community. The financial education grant proved to be an ideal fit, allowing the library to partner with high schools, universities and nonprofit groups to address community needs.
Williams says that Oakland's MPA program has provided a springboard to a rewarding career in the nonprofit sector.
“Without getting my MPA, I would never have made connections with the city of Troy, which was the catalyst for getting my current job with the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries,” she explained.
As the director of volunteer services, Williams manages a team of volunteers that serves roughly 1,800 clients a day who are in need of food, shelter and other assistance.
“My education has taught me a lot about time management, people management, budgeting, policy and fundraising.” Williams said. “It has definitely given me a lot of stepping stones to launch my career.”
The Smart investing@your library seminars will run from September 2013 through June 2014. For more information, contact the Troy Public Library at (248) 524-3538.
To learn more about Oakland's Master of Public Administration program, view the website at oakland.edu/mpa