Posing with $500 checks from Hancock County Promise at the Mt. Vernon Community School Corp. Administrative Service Center earlier last week are, front row from left, Callie Smith and Tucker Middleton, and, back row from left, Aubree Herron and Charlotte Burkholder. Submitted photo
Posing with $500 checks from Hancock County Promise at the Mt. Vernon Community School Corp. Administrative Service Center earlier last week are, front row from left, Callie Smith and Tucker Middleton, and, back row from left, Aubree Herron and Charlotte Burkholder. Submitted photo
HANCOCK COUNTY — Hancock County has the fifth-highest percentage of children in the state who are saving money for college under an education savings initiative.

The program, called Promise Indiana, started at a YMCA in Wabash County in 2014. Since then, 25 Indiana counties have started offering the initiative’s CollegeChoice 529 accounts. The Indiana Youth Institute took over Promise Indiana last December.

Hancock County Promise kicked off in 2017. Parents who sign up their children get $25 in their accounts right away, provided by the organization’s community partners. If an account gets $25 or more by the end of the calendar year, Hancock County Promise will match it with another $25.

Hancock County Promise also takes kindergartners on visits to IUPUI and gives them piggy banks to encourage saving.

The local initiative is led by a steering committee made up of representatives from Eastern Hancock schools, Geist Montessori Academy, Greenfield-Central schools, Southern Hancock schools, Mt. Vernon schools, Greenfield-Central School Foundation and Mt. Vernon Education Foundation.

Almost 32 percent of Hancock County children under 18 now have a CollegeChoice 529 Account, according to the Indiana Education Savings Authority. That’s the fifth-highest in the state. Wabash County tops the list with almost 40 percent.

Scott Shipley, chairman of Hancock County Promise’s steering committee, referenced the statistic at a celebration earlier this week. He said more than 600 students enrolled in the initiative from July 1, 2017, through Oct. 31, 2018. Almost 250 families contributed to their children’s accounts to receive the $25 match, he said.

Shipley pointed out that children who have savings accounts in their name are seven times more likely to attend college, according to the Washington University Center for Social Development.

Phil Maurizi, Promise Indiana director for the Indiana Youth Institute, spoke at the celebration as well. He listed incentives that other counties involved in Promise Indiana offer for CollegeChoice 529 accounts. A hospital in DeKalb County, for example, deposits $50 into accounts for each child born there. Every October, the initiative in Blackford County deposits funds into accounts in exchange for time spent reading with parents and doing community service.

"Yes, assets are being grown, that’s great, but more importantly, you have someone other than Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa telling these kids, ‘We believe in you. You should be excited about your future and you can go to college if you want to,’" Maurizi said.

Shipley told the Daily Reporter after the celebration that all of Maurizi’s examples are possibilities that Hancock County Promise could pursue in the future.

The celebration culminated with the presentations of $500 checks to students from four Hancock County elementary schools for their CollegeChoice 529 accounts. The winners were Charlotte Burkholder of Fortville Elementary School; Aubree Herron of Eden Elementary School; Tucker Middleton of Eastern Hancock Elementary School; and Callie Smith of New Palestine Elementary School.

Charlotte’s mother, Angie Burkholder, said she started her daughter’s CollegeChoice 529 account at a school registration event last August after hearing Shipley tout the program.

Burkholder, who was able to graduate from college with the help of scholarships and financial aid, said she understands the importance of saving for post-secondary education.

Her husband, Drew, is a college graduate as well. Angie said the experience allows young adults to not only learn a lot academically, but life skills like independence as well.
© 2019 Daily Reporter