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This year, more NYC Public School students than ever understand the value of saving money towards their dreams.

Thanks to NYC Kids RISE’s Save for College Program, NYC families and school communities across the five boroughs are working together with entire neighborhoods to save money towards their children’s future college and/or career training-related expenses. Available to all NYC Public School students currently in kindergarten and first grade regardless of family income, residential zip code, or immigration status, NYC Kids RISE’s college scholarship and savings program provides City students with NYC Scholarship Accounts containing an initial $100 towards future college and career training. Today, approximately 145,000 City students have access to NYC Scholarship Accounts, and since 2017, over $19 million has been collectively allocated to the NYC Scholarship Accounts of participating students.

In addition to the NYC Scholarship Accounts, the Save for College Program also provides students with age-appropriate financial lessons in the classroom that help them understand the importance of saving money, sticking to a budget, and other important monetary concepts. Since the program’s citywide expansion last year (2021–22 school year), our kindergarteners and first graders have been learning how to spend money wisely, set savings goals, build wealth, and identify possible career choices.

To see how exactly the NYC Kids RISE Save for College program is helping City families to build wealth while elevating their dreams for higher education and careers, we caught up with our colleagues at P.S. 166 Henry Gradstein in Queens. P.S. 166 has been participating in the Save for College Program since it launched as a pilot program in geographic District 30 elementary schools in fall 2017, and today, we get to hear directly from them to learn just how the Save for College Program has transformed P.S. 166 students, staff members, and families’ financial goals.

Read all about P.S. 166’s experiences with the NYC Kids RISE Save for College Program below, and learn more about the program by checking out NYC Kids RISE’s official webpage and by attending one of our virtual workshops!


Getting to the ‘Root’ of Saving for College and Careers at P.S. 166Q

P.S. 166's kindergarten students standing in front of a "money tree" dedicated to their college and career-related goals.

P.S. 166’s kindergarten students standing in front of their class “money tree,” with each leaf representing the steps that both students and family members can take to prepare for college and career training.

When P.S. 166 in Queens joined District 30’s NYC Kids RISE Save for College Program pilot program in 2017, we quickly learned how the program greatly benefits our students and their dreams for the future. Since then, we have been working together with NYC Kids RISE to support participating students and their families to learn how this program is part of a student’s pathway from kindergarten to college. Thanks to the Save for College Program, nearly every kindergartener through fifth grader in our school has a free NYC Scholarship Account with an initial $100 deposit for college and career training!

Throughout May 2023, we encouraged our students to reflect on how the money in their NYC Scholarship Accounts will support their higher education in the future. Each grade level created a money tree in which the root of their grade’s tree represents college and career training, and the leaves represent the steps that both students and family members can take to prepare them along the way. This activity focused on the importance of saving for college and careers. These trees are inspired by the Save for College Program’s Money Tree poster that is proudly displayed in our school and shows the amount accumulated across all P.S. 166 students’ NYC Scholarship Accounts. Today, the total amount deposited in P.S. 166’s NYC Scholarship Accounts is now over $103,000!

Two students holding "nest eggs" featuring three "eggs" with written descriptions of what these students are doing to save money for college.

These P.S. 166 students are holding “nest eggs” featuring written descriptions of actions they are taking to save money for college.

Thanks to the Save for College Program, financial education is also integrated into our school curriculum, and these lessons start in the fall and continue throughout the school year. Throughout the year, our students are learning how people choose to save, spend, and share their money through classroom lessons, worksheets, and activities. We also use stories and books to teach our students how their individual financial choices could affect others and their futures, and we show them how people place different values on things that they need and want.

Some of the other financial education work we’ve completed since incorporating the Save for College Program includes:

Gifting Coin Banks

At the end of our school’s first year in the Save for College Program, our fifth-grade class created customized cardboard coin banks for the next incoming kindergarten class to help encourage personal savings. This experience of receiving coin banks from other students further along in their educational journeys showed our then-kindergarteners how their entire school community is supporting them. In recent years, our kindergarten students have been creating their own customized coin banks that they decorate and are encouraged to use throughout their elementary school experience.

Student holding a coin bank for college savings

Research suggests that children with a college savings account of just $1 to $500 are three times more likely to go to college and more than four times more likely to graduate.

Developing Good Savings Habits

We’ve also been providing lessons that teach the importance of developing good savings habits, setting savings goals, and understanding why planning early is key to saving for future college and careers. Recently, our second grade students read, ‘Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday,’ which follows the story of how the main character, Alexander, spent his money unwisely. Students reflected on the question, “Do I need it or do I want it,” as they discussed the ways they could have saved their own money if they were in Alexander’s shoes.

See how our second graders answered how they would have done things differently from Alexander in this wonderful clip!

Writing and Drawing about Their Future Jobs

Our students have learned that education is a valuable tool to support their pursuit of a career that they’ll love. Students drew pictures of the jobs that they want to have when they grow up, and they also wrote and shared how they would spend their future job earnings.

A close-up of five paper-based student creations highlighting future jobs that the creators would like to have when they grow up.

From teaching, to medicine and law enforcement, P.S. 166 students are ready to pursue careers that they love!

Learning the Importance of Saving for Education

Students are also encouraged to reflect on what they are saving their money for and actions they can take to save it for their future education. We asked some of them to tell us how they are thinking about saving their funds!

Growing with the “Steps to College” Chart

In the classroom, we used the “Steps to College” chart to show students an example of how students progress through the grades from kindergarten to college.  Through this visual, our students gained better context about their participation in the Save for College Program—the chart shows that they have already taken their first steps towards saving for college and other future educational opportunities following the activation of their respective NYC Scholarship Accounts.

This "Steps to College" chart is a visualization of the progress a student makes as they make their way through grade 12.

To help support the Save for College Program’s lessons at P.S. 166, we also work to connect our students to their future goals while helping to open conversations between our students and their families about life after high school. Some of the ways we’ve done this over the years include:

  • College campus visits and virtual college tours

It is never too early to show students where their learning journey could end up after elementary, middle, and high school; touring college campuses provides students the opportunity to connect their current in-school experiences to their ultimate postsecondary goals.

  • Inviting parents and community members into our classrooms to share and discuss their own college and career experiences.

In our first years in the Save for College Program and through our Junior Achievement partners, members of Ernst & Young joined each classroom and taught our students about saving money and making money through interactive games. Hands-on experiences like these show students what different career pathways could look like while providing valuable lessons about earning and saving money.

Classroom of students participating in a "Class Store" exercise, where students learn how to exchange money for desired items.

To help students better understand the purpose of money, this Q166 classroom was transformed into a “class store,” where students learned the basics of buying, selling, and keeping a budget.

  • Exploring students’ interests to match possible career choices

At P.S. 166, we have hosted events like College Pride Day and Career Day, which are fun and creative ways to invite students to visualize and celebrate their different higher education and career-related pursuits. During these events, our students write about their futures and dress up in ways that are representative of the careers that they would like to pursue, and in turn, our staff members cheer on our students’ selections and overall event participation.

A mix of older PS 166 students holding signs with descriptions of what their desired careers.

As we continue to incorporate these college and career readiness tools into our lessons and school activities, we are reminded of how critical it is to help deepen students’ understanding of the importance of saving money early on and setting and working towards greater goals, such as saving for college. We are grateful to our greater P.S. 166 school community for coming together around all of our students as we prepare them for the future!


We thank our colleagues from P.S. 166 in Queens for updating us about their experiences with NYC Kids RISE’s Save for College Program!

Remember: all kindergarten and first grade students at NYC Public Schools, including participating charter programs, are eligible for the Save for College Program, regardless of family income or immigration status. To learn more about the program, including activating your child’s account, visit, speak with the parent coordinator at your child’s school, call (833) 543-7473, or email if you have any further questions.

On behalf of the NYC Department of Education, we wish all of our families great educational and economic success!

Banner photo by Alexas_Fotos. Used under Creative Commons license. Original can be found on Pixabay.

All other photos and linked media are courtesy of P.S. 166 in Queens.

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