Three influencers aim to help students improve their financial literacy

At 26, Indian Harbor Beach resident Emily Zeck is enjoying a growing career as a singer/songwriter. She designs and sells her own swimwear line, Pineapple Girl Swimwear. It has marketing agreements with beverage companies Celsius and Islamorada Brewery. And she has over 2 million followers on TikTok and 531,000 on Instagram as @thatpineapplegirl, making her one of the Space Coast’s most popular social media personalities.

But Zeck also knows that, like many people in her teens and 20s, she made a few financial missteps along the way.

So on Monday, Zeck and two other local residents shared their personal successes and financial tips with about 320 Rockledge High School juniors, in the first in a series of financial literacy events at high schools and colleges across the county. of Brevard, sponsored by Community Caisse populaire de Floride.

From left, Florida Institute of Technology astrobiology major and aspiring astronaut Alyssa Carson, professional soccer player JT Hassell and singer/songwriter and swimwear designer Emily Zeck talk Monday about financial literacy and other subjects to Rockledge High School juniors.

Zeck was joined on the panel at the “321 Financial Liftoff” event by National Football League defensive back JT Hassell and Alyssa Carson, a pilot and astrobiology major at the Florida Institute of Technology with aspirations of becoming the first woman on Mars.

Zeck, a graduate of Satellite High and Florida International University, says many high school graduates “think you’ve got it all figured out,” but maybe they’re not as financially conscious as they should be.

“It doesn’t have to be complicated,” Zeck said. “But, at all times, it’s important to know what’s coming in and going out of your bank account.”

Carson, a 21-year-old junior at Florida Tech in Melbourne, said it could be as simple as being mindful not to charge a $5 or $6 latte to your credit card every day because those costs add up quickly by the time the bill arrives. at the end of the month.

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When a teenager gets a credit card for the first time, Carson said, “it’s like endless money, in a way. You have to learn to be wise with a credit card.”

“It’s wants versus needs,” Carson said. “It’s a learning curve – being smart with money.”

And Hassell, a 26-year-old Astronaut High and Florida Tech graduate who grew up in Titusville, says he learned the hard way to make good financial decisions after signing his first NFL contract with the Cleveland Browns in 2019, as an undrafted free agent.

While the money was decent, it wasn’t a multi-million dollar deal the NFL stars would make. Hassell says buying an expensive new sports car – with the maintenance and gas costs that come with it – wasn’t the smartest choice for him, when he was also supporting of her son and paid rent for two residences – in Central Florida and Cleveland.

Hassell’s take-home advice: “The road will be bumpy at times,” but make wise financial and life choices.

Monday’s event at Rockledge High was the first of four scheduled by Community Credit Union Florida in a series that combines music, videos and financial literacy lessons. The second event will take place at Titusville High School on April 1, in conjunction with Junior Achievement Space Coast. There will also be events at Florida Tech on August 28 and Eastern Florida State College in October.

“Having financial literacy at a young age is key, and we want to make sure the next generation on the Space Coast is able to reach those milestones, like getting their first debit card, buying a car or his first home,” said Laurie Cappelli, president of Rockledge-based Community Credit Union Florida, which has seven branches in Brevard County. “Recent studies have shown that a gap in financial education exists, and we’re committed to filling that gap by providing students with tips, resources, and easy-to-understand ways to jump-start their financial journey.”

About 320 juniors from Rockledge High attended the 321 Financial Liftoff event at the school on Monday.  The series is intended to combat youth financial illiteracy and is hosted by Community Credit Union Florida.

Overcome Challenges

The panelists offered more than a personal finance lesson to the students. They were also able to provide insight into how to overcome life’s challenges in general.

Hassell, for example, was born with a deformed left hand but became a football star in high school and at Florida Tech (and earlier at San Diego State University). He helped his single mother pay the family’s bills, working at various jobs, including detailing cars and doing yard work, as well as working at a fruit stand, a grocery store, and a steel mill.

Panelists discussing financial literacy at an event Monday at Rockledge High School included, from left, Florida Institute of Technology astrobiology and budding astronaut Alyssa Carson, professional football player JT Hassell and the singer/songwriter and swimwear designer Emily Zeck.

He then became the first Florida Tech player to appear in an NFL regular season game. He played for the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets, as well as being briefly on the New England Patriots roster.

He’s now a free agent, looking to tie up with an NFL team, after recovering from elbow surgery.

Hassell – who now lives in Orlando – has also experienced mental health issues. He founded the Hassell Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate, empower and support families and communities to better understand how to care for youth mental health.

Carson is looking to beat the very high odds of becoming an astronaut and the very high odds of becoming the first woman on Mars – a dream she’s had since she was a young girl. Her social media name “NASA Blueberry” comes from the dark blue suit she wore to one of the many space camps she attended.

Later, Carson started the Blueberry Foundation “to give kids an opportunity they might not otherwise have. I want to inspire kids to pursue their dreams and have fun while they learn.”

A year ago, Carson appeared with Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) in a “Water on Mars” TV commercial for SodaStream that aired during the Super Bowl. She also has promotional deals with Frito-Lay, Nike and Olay, the latter of which Carson says is particularly proactive in promoting women entering STEM disciplines — science, technology, engineering and math.

Zeck now faces a crossroads in his music career. While living in California for five years, she released several singles and an album as a pop artist, with a reggae influence in her music. Now, however, Zeck has moved into country music, spending time recording in Nashville, under the name South of Sunny.

She is also known as That Pineapple Girl, especially on social media, where many of her posts are surf-themed. She is an avid recreational surfer and participated in the surf team when she attended the University of North Florida, before transferring to FIU. This Pineapple Girl is a nickname she picked up during her freshman year of college, when someone topped her off on all of her pineapple-themed shirts.

Zeck said that in addition to giving advice on good financial practices, she tries to emphasize to teenagers the importance of focusing on their mental well-being, including not dwelling on an image obsession. bodily.

Financial management issues

Carson, Hassell and Zeck were joined Monday by financial experts from Community Credit Union Florida.

The credit union cites a recent study by Forbes magazine, which shows that 79% of teens don’t have a savings account and 87% say they don’t know how to manage their money.

Legislation requiring high school students to earn a half-credit in personal financial literacy and money management in order to graduate was passed unanimously by both houses of the Florida legislature during the session. of 2022 recently completed and awaiting the Governor’s signature.

The Series 321 Financial Liftoff launch event took place on “321 Day” – March 21 or 03/21.

Cappelli said, “321 is not only our area code on the Space Coast, but also speaks to the importance of trying to make it simple and easy for young people to start their financial journey. Helping the next generation of County of Brevard to achieve its objectives is a priority for us.”

Dave Berman is a business writer at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Berman at [email protected]. Twitter: @bydaveberman.

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