At American Honda Finance Corporation (AHFC), we know the true measure of a company isn’t just great products, but the impact that it has on society. Our vision is to empower our customers with access to creative, flexible and responsible financial services. We strive to be a company that society wants to exist and are committed to making a difference in our local communities and beyond.

Youth education is a focus of our philosophy, which is why in 2015, AHFC and Junior Achievement USA (JA) teamed up in a four year, $1.8 million sponsorship in support of their JA Personal Finance program, an interactive and experiential blended-learning curriculum that shows teens how to use credit responsibly, budget and save. Targeted towards high school students, the program is facilitated by volunteers, whose personal and professional experiences teach students valuable financial practices.

Through the investment from AHFC, JA was able to revamp the program for students in the 21st century by incorporating digital technology and interactive games related to financial literacy. Within the last four years, the program has benefited nearly half a million teens nationwide, giving them the knowledge they need to reach their financial goals, whether it’s buying their first car, starting their own business or owning a house.

In addition to supporting the JA Personal Finance program, AHFC has also worked on an interactive learning course to prepare teens for the responsibilities that come with car ownership. When a national survey revealed that teen drivers lacked basic knowledge of auto financing and the cost of vehicle ownership, AHFC and JA created a website (www.financialtestdrive.org) to help young drivers navigate the financial aspects of owning and maintaining a vehicle. The website tests their knowledge through an interactive quiz and provides helpful information related to financing options, insurance coverage, routine maintenance and budgeting.

“AHFC works with JA to give students a strong financial foundation, so they can create a future they envision for themselves,” said Ferrell Kemp, vice president, AHFC. “Since buying a car is usually one of the first major financial decisions they’ll make, it’s important for us to equip students with the education they need to make sure they’re ready for the responsibilities of car ownership. Overall, our goal is to empower the next generation and help make their dreams possible.”

In our own neighborhood

With AHFC headquartered in Torrance, California, we’re able to connect with JA of Southern California (JA SoCal) and the low-to-moderate income schools they serve every day. We encourage our associates to volunteer for JA SoCal to provide the critical, but often overlooked programs focused on financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work-readiness skills, to K-12 students. As a result of these volunteer services, our associates have gained stronger communication, presentation and leadership skills. Additionally, many of our associates are inspired by the transformation that happens in the classroom and are excited to return each year. These personal connections to the school, teachers and students highlights that AHFC is committed to helping the next generation fulfill their dreams.

“Time is precious. Having that human aspect in my classroom—other adults to reinforce the curriculum—that’s priceless for me,” said Sharon Peoples, business economics instructor, Narbonne High School. “Now the kids see Honda as more than just a car company—more than just this big organization—they see Honda as the nice associates that come out and spend weeks with them in the classroom. The associates teach them how to open a bank account, how to balance a check book and the importance of having a good credit score.”

By being an active member of the community, AHFC and our associates strive to provide students with a strong financial foundation to make better-informed decisions in the future.

Hands-on learning with JA Finance Park

Still a best-kept secret in Los Angeles, JA SoCal also houses an experiential financial literacy lab known as JA Finance Park.  This vibrant learning facility is the only one of its kind where middle and high school students can visit and learn what it’s like to be an “adult for the day.” Incorporating both technology and volunteers, students participate in a simulation where they’re given a unique persona, salary, credit score, family and more. They then create a monthly budget as they’re guided through company-sponsored “storefronts,” each representing an item on their budget.

“When I was a high school senior and a few months away from graduation, I did not feel prepared to enter adulthood at all. Words like credit score, taxes and expenses were familiar to me, but their concepts were foreign. Thankfully, my [class] enrolled us with the Finance Park program, which culminated with a trip to JA Finance Park. I learned more about financial literacy in the 10-week program than I ever did throughout my educational history. It motivated me to not be scared about growing up but embrace it,” said Angelo Kairuz, a JA alumni.

Continuing to create impact

In conjunction with AHFC, JA has been able to provide hundreds of thousands of students with crucial financial knowledge. However, there are many more students in need of JA’s “real world” education and JA wouldn’t be able to do it without partners that share a vision for a successful future for the next generation.

“The young people we serve have very limited access to information about responsible financial management,” said Dr. Les McCabe, president and CEO, JA of SoCal. “Through JA programs, teens not only receive this information, but when it’s delivered by an AHFC volunteer, the lessons are infused with personal experiences, and the lessons learned from those experiences. The magic of Junior Achievement happens when we expose students to new people, new career paths and new ideas—inspiring them to dream big.”

Crystal Boutiette is Director of Integrated Marketing & Communications for JA of Southern California.

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