By Abby Weingarten
Agnes Bartha wants to spend her final year at New College making a tangible difference in her community. So she is devoting her undergraduate thesis to it.
Her undertaking: To create a custom financial literacy program for teens in the Newtown area of Sarasota—a historically black and underserved neighborhood located just a few blocks from New College. At 5:30 p.m. Thurs. Dec. 3, Bartha will present her senior project idea to the City of Sarasota’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Advisory Board.
“My thought process was simply that if I was going to spend a year working on a project, it better help somebody,” said Bartha, who is studying economics and finance. “I do feel it is very important to be involved in the place you live.”
Bartha’s involvement in the project so far has consisted of researching the economic hurdles experienced by residents of Newtown, and creating a comprehensive financial literacy lesson plan to help youth transition to independent adulthoods. She has even taken more than a dozen online financial literacy programs to educate herself on how to make a more effective program.
“What I’m creating is quite literally a custom financial literacy program. It is built so teens participating get to learn about things they need and want to learn more about, but they get to do a lot of the learning in their own way,” said Bartha, whose thesis adviser is Tracy Collins, Ph.D., an associate professor of economics. “The participants will seek out hypothetical jobs, create hypothetical families, do their taxes, navigate the welfare cliff, make budgets and saving plans—and seek out insurance plans based on these jobs and families, save up for a home, a car, and higher education if they’d like. It’s all based on how they see their own lives playing out.”
As for her own life, Bartha sees herself pursuing a career path in community economics that will ultimately help people. Originally from Miami, Bartha has already amassed plenty of volunteer experience during her years at New College.
Since January, she has been a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) volunteer for the United Way Suncoast Sarasota, helping prepare the taxes of residents with low-to-moderate incomes for free (something she greatly encourages other volunteers to consider). In June, Bartha began working as a general assistant for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), aiding in the development of a partnership between the Erickson School of Aging Studies and the American Institute of Financial Gerontology.
In all of these roles, Bartha has found a way to bring financial literacy to underrepresented populations, and her thesis will perpetuate this work.
“Being involved in your community leads to feeling like where you live is actually your home and where you belong—not just where you eat, sleep and work,” Bartha said. “I’d love for New College students to feel like they are part of a community, not the ‘bubble’ that is often referred to as our campus. There is so much more for us here.”
Bartha touched on this idea in October, when New College released a series of videos for its “More than Just a Number” campaign. The collection highlighted alumni and students who talked about how New College transformed their lives. In Bartha’s video, she said:
“Not only was I able to customize my classes (which I’m sure you’ve heard everywhere, because that’s one of the top things they talk about), but instead of learning just the small things that I wanted to learn, I also got to expand my horizons and learn about things that I didn’t even know existed. And so that was really cool, and on top of it, going into college I had no idea that I did not have the work ethic necessary in order to own my own business. Now I can confidently say, ‘Bring on the hurdles. I’m ready. I can jump over them. I can do it.’”
And Bartha is teaching others to do the same.
For more information on the project, and to volunteer to help with the implementation of Bartha’s financial literacy course, email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on her upcoming presentation, visit sarasotafl.gov/services/meetings-agendas-videos
Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.