Consider a holiday gift in a child’s education.

November 29, 2019

Andrea Large.

Consider a holiday gift in a child’s education.

Guest column by Andrea Large

Executive Director of Community Foundation for Mason County

This week signals the start of the holiday shopping season as we transition from Thanksgiving to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. While shopping and giving is on everyone’s minds, I challenge you to give an alternative gift this holiday season to our Mason County youth – the gift of hope through a donation to a children’s savings account. Let me tell you why and how.


In Mason County, approximately 70 percent of children start college, but only 35 percent on average graduate. Read that again. It is a sobering statistic that should concern all of us, whether we have school-age children or not.


The Community Foundation for Mason County (CFFMC) launched a new program this fall, KickStart to Careerthat works directly to change that statistic. The premise is simple but its impact is profound. Studies show that children with a savings account of just $1 to $500 are three times more likely to attend college and four times more likely to graduate than those without savings. And educated young adults with college degrees, trade school training or other post-high school career training have more opportunities to land jobs with benefits and advancement opportunities, and they become productive adults who in turn make their communities stronger.


The Community Foundation set up a children’s savings account (CSA) at West Shore Bank for every kindergartner in Mason County, each seeded with $50 generously donated by the John and Anita Wilson Family Fund held at the foundation. In addition to depositing savings into their account any time, students can earn additional contributions throughout their K-12 school years, such as on designated Deposit Days held twice annually (we just held our first Deposit Day Nov. 6), at which time classroom sponsors provide financial incentives when students donate to their account.


These children’s savings accounts are deposit only, and students cannot access them until after graduating from high school. Even then, withdrawals are restricted to post-secondary education expenses – from traditional college/university degrees, to post-secondary training for skilled trade professions.


You can play a part in improving the percentage of our youth who stay in college in Mason County. Family members, friends and community members can make contributions any time to a Mason County kindergartner’s savings account at any West Shore Bank branch by giving the child’s name and stating that you are contributing to their K2C program account. If you want to become a classroom sponsor or contribute to the overall K2C program, you can make an online gift to the KickStart to Career Mason County Fund at or contact Julie Van Dyke, KickStart to Career program coordinator, at 231-845-0326 or Gifts to the program will be used to provide match and incentive dollars. Grade sponsors also are needed each year to continue a match on Deposit and Incentive Days.

The K2C program is a part of a larger children’s savings account initiative spreading across the country as a way to provide children and families with long-term savings accounts and incentives to save for the future, along with financial education. We should be very proud that Mason County has one of only 50 CSA programs in the country.


We have generous partners who make this program possible in addition to John and Anita Wilson, with West Shore Bank and Safe Harbor Credit Union providing financial education to students, plus grade sponsors West Shore Bank donating $10 annually per kindergartener for every class going forward, and Sarah Kanitz of Lake Michigan CPA Services, PLC donating $10 per child when in first grade.


Not only does this children’s savings account program give students a boost in paying for career training or college expenses, it is a perfect complement to our Mason County Promise.  Imagine a student being able to supplement their two years of paid schooling at WSCC through the Mason County Promise with savings from their children’s savings account to transfer to a four-year college, buy books, or continue in another training capacity?


This holiday shopping season, don’t think of just the latest toy for the kindergartner in your life that will only be enjoyed today. Think of the gift that will foster hope, grow with time, and help that young person build toward a dream of attending college or a career training program – which ultimately will pay dividends to that child for a lifetime. Find more information at