The Opportunity Passport, part of the Connected Youth Initiative, has been helping Jefferson County’s youth to succeed in life, providing them with the help they need to overcome obstacles that block their way to prosperity.
Angie Harroun, who directs the Opportunity Passport program, explained that the program centers around a financial literacy class that helps young people learn how to develop budgets and to save money.
“If they have a need, like if somebody needs a car to get to work, it teaches them to save for that need so they can invest in it,” said Harroun. “If they invest a certain amount of money, we match it with double the amount of money. They learn a lot about responsibility through this program. We’re just trying to help these young people who don’t think they have a goal realize that they do. We’re here to help them. These young people are taking the steps they need to take now to have a positive future.”
The program focuses on several areas: rental deposit assistance, vehicle, education, starting a business and credit building.
“It’s not just instant gratification,” Harroun said. “These people have to save and make an investment, and that’s something we’re trying to teach them. It’s hard to teach people to save up for the unexpected. They’re taking the steps to save and plan ahead. We’re here to sit down with them to help them succeed.”
Harroun encourages people up to the age of 24 who meet the criteria for the Connected Youth Initiative to contact her at the FYI Center in Fairbury to see the ways they can help plan for their future.
One person involved in the Opportunity Passport program, who wishes to remain anonymous, stated that this program taught them valuable life skills they did not learn in school. They are grateful for the help to get their life on the right track.
“It really is helpful to me and it helps all these people out in the long haul. It helps them learn to save their money. Without a doubt, this has changed my life. Collena (Laschanzky, director of the FYI Center) and Angie have had such an impact on my life with this program. They go out of their way to help kids and young people, and I’m just so grateful for all of their help. It’s amazing. They genuinely care, and you don’t see that very much today. They’re committed to actually changing the lives of people around them.”