People often inherit their parents’ habits and attitudes toward money.

David Webster, the Director of Early Learning and Family Services at the Opportunity Council says growing up, we saw how our parents interacted with money and learned from their example.

“Children often learn what they live,” Webster said.

This is why the Opportunity Council created Project X-It.

“Project X-It is a dual generation program for both preschool children and their parents,” Webster said. “Families who are struggling financially can enroll, and both the parents and the children get financial literacy education.”

The family is paired with a mentor, and over a two-year period, they work toward financial and professional goals, eliminating former bad habits and unhealthy attitudes toward money. As they make these positive steps in their life, they’re rewarded with financial incentives.

Webster says that a lack of knowledge or bad habits with finances are often what leads to poverty. He says many other social services often deal with the symptoms of the problem, rather than the root cause. Helping families stand on their own two feet, by building financial stability, can nip problems with housing and hunger, for example, in the bud before they even start.

“We want to take a family that has paid late fees, bit off too much to chew, and always been one paycheck away from financial disaster, into one that feels better and confident financially,” Webster said. “Doing that can limit stress and give them the ability to focus on their child’s well-being.”

The program, that lasts for two years with each group, just finished its first cohort.

“We have individuals who have drastically reduced their debt, improved credit scores, made themselves more marketable,” Webster said. “People are saying for the first time of my life I feel capable with my finances. I feel like I have the tools to guide our path forward.”

Working with pre-schoolers and their parents is a key part of the program.

“The first five years of life are extremely formative,” Webster said. “Synapses are developing rapidly every single day. When you’re born, your brain size is 20-25% of adult brain, but by five years old it’s 90% of the adult brain. That’s why it is so important to help these kids starting in pre-school, so they develop those healthy skills and habits early.”

As a part of the brand launch, WECU has donated $25,000 to Project X-It in a hope that, through their efforts, we will see fewer families stuck in the cycle of generational poverty.

“All of us need to have the children in our community thrive because they are the ones who are going to be building our society in the future. I think that’s something everyone can get behind,” Webster said.