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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jan. 25, 201012:00 PM EST

JALACARE instructors trainers needed to help young adults avoid financial catastrophe

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by Kathy Para

JBA Pro Bono Committee Chair

Pro Bono Spotlight - Bringing you news of pro bono opportunities and accomplishments.

Tomorrow seems a long way off to most high school students. But Jacksonville’s legal professionals know all too well how quickly tomorrows can turn into today, and how easily yesterday’s purchases can become today’s financial burdens. That is why dozens of area attorneys have recently been going back to high school.

Through JALACARE (Jacksonville Area Legal Aid’s Credit Abuse Resistance Education), these caring professionals are reaching into our schools and trying to make a difference in the financial future of today’s students. JALACARE, a combined effort of the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, the Fourth Circuit Pro Bono Committee, and the Duval County School Board, recruits area lawyers and law students to give two 90-minute classes in which they explain the financial dangers of loan purchases to high school students.

“Many of these students don’t really have the life experience yet to realize how much they could be damaging their financial futures by signing up for easy, and sometimes questionable, credit deals to buy items they might not really need,” said JALACARE program administrator Atheia Inman. “Our goal is to try to open their eyes to the dangers and to what their world might look like five or ten years down the road, when they’re going to have so many more important things to do with their money.”

JALACARE is the Jacksonville chapter of C.A.R.E. (Credit Abuse Resistance Education), a nationwide consumer education movement started in 2002 by Judge John C. Ninfo II, Chief Judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of New York.

C.A.R.E. says that every day unscrupulous people are taking millions of dollars from the poor and financially illiterate through payday loan stores, rent-to-own centers, check cashing stores, pawnshops, tax refund-anticipation, car title and more-than-three-year car loan lenders. Often, these transactions push people, young and old, over the edge to financial ruin and bankruptcy. (For more information on C.A.R.E., go to careprogram.squarespace.com.)

Jacksonville area attorneys interested in helping young adults fend off financial ruin can sign up for a two-hour JALACARE Training CLE to be held at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 2, at Florida Coastal School of Law.

JALA bankruptcy attorney Robert Wilbert and Florida Coastal School of Law student Richard Farmer received the JALACARE training and now both give their time to go into the schools to present Credit Abuse Resistance Education.

JALA bankruptcy attorney Robert Wilbert and Florida Coastal School of Law student Richard Farmer helped create the local program and both give their time to go into the schools to present it.

“The students seem to retain a lot of the information,” Farmer said following a recent presentation at Lee High School. “They seem to like the Power Point presentation we’ve developed.”

“The visual presentation helps get their attention,” Wilbert agreed. “Also, the seniors seem to be able to relate to what we’re saying. I’ve presented to ninth-graders, and it’s more difficult to reach them. But these students today really seemed to get it.”

The House of Representatives has highlighted the need for such financial education in our schools in House Resolution 3221, encouraging “the full use of State resources in support of financial literacy program to provide financial literacy education and counseling to elementary, secondary and post secondary students.”

Jacksonville City Council followed suit with a resolution praising area attorneys for their pro bono work in JALACARE and other financial education programs.

“This year we’re really concentrating on 12th-graders,” said Inman. “Once they graduate, they will become our next wave of consumers. They really need to know the ins and outs of the credit trap that so many young people fall into.”

In its first year of existence, the effort was fueled by 53 volunteer Jacksonville area attorneys and Florida Coastal Law School students

“This can be a really rewarding experience for any attorney looking to give back to the community,” Inman said.

The attorneys and law students in the first year made a real impact on the students’ financial literacy.

“We give a pre- and post-test of the students’ financial knowledge,” Inman said. “Last year, we saw up to a 25 percent increase in knowledge between the pre- and post-tests. So the program really is making a difference.”

JALACARE needs civic-minded attorneys to help end this cycle and allow more Jacksonville young people to enter adulthood with the knowledge and awareness to help them be financially stable.

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid will offer the two-hour JALACARE training at 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 2 on the campus of Florida Coastal School of Law. Attorneys interested in attending the training and being part of this important credit abuse prevention effort in our public schools are encouraged to contact Atheia Inman, JALACARE Administrator at [email protected], 356-8371, ext. 377 by Tuesday. Trained attorneys will teach the JALACARE curriculum to high school seniors in their economics class on two separate days during the semester.

It’s pro bono that’s manageable. It’s pro bono that matters.

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