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Helping Delta Students Obtain a College Degree

Posted on: April 6, 2018

Ayanna Harris wants to be prepared for life’s emergencies. She wants to graduate from college with as little debt as possible. And she wants to be financially responsible in all that she undertakes. Call it a DREAM scenario.

“What I’ve learned is that saving money is really, really, really important if you want to advance in life,” said the 19-year-old Indianola native and college freshman at Mississippi State University. “I feel like I’m much farther along than I was before I did this.”

What Ayanna did was enroll in Delta DREAMS, or Dollars Reinvested in Education and Assets to Maximize Success, a partnership between Delta Health Alliance and Mississippi State University.

“Many times, the value of a program like this one is reflected by the lessons that will help a young person long after it’s over,” said Alexis Hynes, the program coordinator for Delta Health Alliance. “DREAMS is so important to these college students as they set out on their own.”

DREAMS operates this way: Students, working with Mississippi State, complete a financial literacy course to help them become savvier with money by learning how to reduce debt, establish credit, save money and change poor financial behavior. Second, students must commit to saving $625 over six months to be eligible for a 4 to 1 match through Mississippi State and the federal government for a total of $2,500 that can be used for college tuition and fees.

Ayanna recently completed the requirements to receive $2,500 that she will use for books and other college expenses to help her “survive” her first year in college. “College is expensive, and this program allows me to avoid having to get a loan,” she explained. “It’s really helpful because I don’t want my school debt to get too high. Being a college student is hard enough and having a savings account is so valuable.”

The partnership between Delta Health Alliance and Mississippi State came about after Hynes discovered that Mississippi State had lost funding for a similar program. “They said, ‘let’s talk and see what we can do about partnering,’” Hynes said. Delta Health Alliance had the resources to manage the program and MSU had the required financial literacy training component and access to matching funds.

DREAMS is about changing behavior when it comes to money. More than 100 Mississippi State students have already enrolled in DREAMS. DHA manages the program, collecting the necessary information to ensure that students are staying on track and meeting their financial goals.

Ayanna said she began by socking away $20 per month in the beginning, followed by larger amounts toward the end of the six-month savings period. “When you’re a college student, even getting a flat tire can be a financial hardship,” said Ayanna. “I would definitely recommend this program to any student who wants to learn the best way to save and manage money.”

The DREAMS program with MSU is available to all Sunflower County residents.

Ayanna, who plans to major in elementary education with a concentration on early childhood, said programs such as DREAMS make her understand the value of giving back to one’s community. “That’s one reason I plan to come back to Indianola to teach kindergarten up to third grade,” she said. “Seeing a child smile really makes me happy. It makes me happy to see them learning.”