American debt is on the rise in 2017: 67 percent of people have some sort of mortgage debt., 21 percent have racked up medical bills and student debt is fourth highest sitting at 25 percent.

In order to chip away at the problem, one Dyess Airman is bringing finance and budgeting to young minds in Abilene, enabling students to achieve the “American Dream” without mounting debt.

According to GoBankingRates, the average American is sitting on about $140,000 in debt.
So before your kids graduate and enter the real world, Air Force First Lieutenant Kyle Hees is teaching high school students how to cash in without going belly up.

“I tell them all the time that I was shocked at the amount of expenses that you have after you graduate and after you get out and you’re in the real world, you don’t have your parents there anymore and you’re spending money on things that you never even thought of before,” First Lieutenant Kyle Hees said.

Kyle Hees is a First Lieutenant at Dyess Air Force Base, serving his country and also serving students his community.

“They reached out, actually to volunteers on base to teach personal finance to high school students and I was like, well I was an undergrad finance major so this would be a good opportunity to share with the community my resources to teach students about things they don’t think about,” First Lieutenant Hees said.

Hees is in his second year, shaping the minds of his students through a special program being offered in Abilene schools.

“Junior Achievement’s mission is to inspire and prepare young people in kindergarten through 12th grade to succeed beyond high school with kind of the tools that we teach them in the classroom,” Sarah Franz said.

Sarah Franz, who is the education manager at Junior Achievement of Abilene, said the curriculum focuses on three pillars: financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship.

“It’s kind of a basic foundation for students to be able to kind of manage their finances and if they can manage their finances well, I think they have a much greater chance of succeeding later in life,” Franz said.

Ten school districts in the Big Country offer JA courses. Statewide, the program impacts nearly 7,000 students each year.

“Every high school student that receives one of our programs is actually eligible to apply for one of our scholarships. Last year, we gave away $104,000 in scholarships,” Franz said.

Abilene High School economics and social studies teacher Sarah Fambrough said those funds make a difference in her students’ futures.
“These scholarships go to the local universities as well as they can be used outside of Abilene and that’s one of the wonderful benefits of Junior Achievement,” Fambrough said.

According to JA, nationally, the program’s alumni are 30 percent more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree, 67 percent are more likely to complete an advanced degree and 143 percent are more likely to start their own business.

JA said success would not be possible without the more than 200 volunteers like First Lieutenant Hees, who’s biggest piece of financial advice for his students is to always invest in themselves.

“What I mean by that is to invest in their education and what I mean by that is to invest in their education because as the program kind of teaches, your income levels kind of correlate with your education levels. That’s one thing that no one can ever take away from you is your education. You can always use that to your advantage,” First Lieutenant Hees said.
Ffirst Lieutenant Hees will be attending Fambrough’s economics junior/senior class every Tuesday over the course of six weeks.

Once the students complete the course they will receive a certificate and are eligible to apply for those scholarships the program offers.