Florida Prosperity Partnership (FPP) has a tagline: “Elevate Financial Capability for All.” Young people are not neglected in this endeavor. The FPP offers a set of internship programs specifically designed to prepare Central Florida youth for the workforce. In these programs, young people have the opportunity gain the knowledge and skills necessary for a successful career and life path.
At risk youth, in particular, are at risk for dropping out of school, which means they are at risk for unemployment. Programs such as those offered by the FPP, our latest small grant recipient, serve to prevent such outcomes not only through skills and knowledge, but by instilling in them the drive to both enter the workforce and succeed. We put some questions to Florida Prosperity Partnership CEO Bill Mills to learn more about this work:
Kars4Kids: Tell us about the Florida Prosperity Partnership. When was it founded and why? Whom does it serve?
Bill Mills: Founded in 2008, FPP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit coalition of 4000+ partners and members in and beyond Florida who primarily serve low- and moderate-income individuals and households.
The coalition is comprised of Florida-based, domestic and international organizations and practitioners representing non-profits, financial institutions, academia, government agencies, for-profit enterprises and more, all committed to generating a collective impact.
Through coalition engagement, FPP’s Financial Capability practitioners build knowledge, skill and understanding to elevate people and communities from financial crisis to stability, security, wellbeing and prosperity.
Kars4Kids: What is the FPP Coalition Youth Financial Capability movement? Your website says it falls under the Bright Minds, Fresh Ideas umbrella. Can you give us an overview of this movement and its guiding principles?
Bill Mills: Bright Minds, Fresh Ideas, or BMFI, is the name for FPP’s youth internships. BMFI is comprised of three different internship programs, each designed to teach a specific set of industry skills, while also encompassing the importance of comprehending general professionalism before entering the workforce.
The guiding principles are:
Kars4Kids: What can you tell us about the Bright Minds, Fresh Ideas Think Tank Summer Internship?
Bill Mills: All BMFI programs are designed to be think tanks, where students are encouraged to solve social issues or bring awareness to valuable concepts with ideas never before seen introduced. Students create teams with each other and develop the concept, in full, in 4-weeks, at which point they present to an audience of FPP Coalition members their final concepts.
During these 4 weeks, interns meet with guest mentors; view guest speakers; engage in panel discussions; and participate in workshops offered by employers from across Central Florida seeking to assist in the workforce development of the rising generation. FPP offers any support requested by interns.
Following the program, many interns have gone on to continue to pursue, develop, and implement their concepts into real-world communities and businesses, some before they even graduate high school.
Kars4Kids: What are some of the projects and research topics that summer interns have tackled through your Think Tank program?
Bill Mills: Some recent topics:
Kars4Kids: Talk to us about STEP. We had to look up “spondulics” in the dictionary. Great word. What can interns expect to get out of this program?
Bill Mills: The Spondulics Technical Education Program (STEP) Internship is a paid, four-week learning and professional development experience that debuted in 2022. STEP is designed to help Interns from across Florida develop foundational technology skills required for generating content and operating the internationally-viewed, financial-focused, “Edutainment” streaming broadcast platform, Spondulics.org, powered by the FPP Coalition.
This internship opportunity blends the essentials of film/video/TV production, website design, content creation, and professional development into a singular learning experience. Upon engaging in STEP, interns will be able to create financial-focused, behavior-changing video content to be shared via a live broadcast event, and continuously broadcast as archived content on Spondulics.org.
Kars4Kids: In addition to youth internships, you also offer funding to teachers and youth to further art and financial literacy efforts targeting youth in Florida. Can you tell us a bit about that, please? How does this work? What is the connection between art and financial literacy?
Bill Mills: “Edutainment” was a term used by Walt Disney to describe the documentary series “True-Life Adventures”. Educational entertainment now encompasses so many more outlets since this production that ran from 1948 – 1960. We still have television, movies, theater, and print media. But we also have internet, handheld devices, and even non-handheld devices. Edutainment has been used to affect many across the globe.
Recently, the Russia Trust Fund for Financial Literacy and Education showed how edutainment can be a powerful method for changing attitudes and behaviors of individuals related to financial education. They performed a study to “assess the ability of entertainment education as a social marketing instrument to increase financial capabilities of the consumers in South Africa using a robust impact evaluation framework. The program aims at enhancing knowledge, attitudes and behavior regarding sound financial decision-making with a particular focus on managing debt.” This is just one study. There have been others. In Kenya, a television program entitled Makutano Junction showed promising results when they “integrated financial education into a series of episodes of MJ that were specifically tailored to the demand”.
Edutainment has been proven to change attitudes and behaviors; something that financial education, by itself, cannot do!
Kars4Kids: Youth interns in your programs are paid, correct? Why is this important and do they earn—is it more than they’d make flipping burgers?
Bill Mills: Yes, our interns are all paid and paid well. There is nothing wrong with “flipping burgers.” All jobs can be good learning experiences (even the bad ones).
The difference is that we are giving them that bridge between school and professionalism. These internship programs teach them to “fit in” the professional world, something that many schools and even jobs will not teach.
In fact, the only question that we ask the students who are applying for the internship is “are you ready to become a more professional version of yourself?” This one question is all we need to ask. We don’t care if Mommy or a school teacher or counselor wants them to do it. They have to be ready to learn and adjust.
Kars4Kids: Talk us through your Hospitality Internship Program, please. What can interns in this program expect to learn?
Bill Mills: The Hospitality Innovation (HI) Program focuses on helping low- to moderate-income high school students who lack equitable access to pre-graduation employment and professional skills development opportunities become a more capable asset to the workforce prior to graduating, specifically in the fields of business and entrepreneurship.
HI will run during the summer and brings interns from all backgrounds together to learn the fundamentals of design-thinking, hospitality acumen, innovation, leadership, financial capability, and professionalism. Interns work in a Think Tank atmosphere to craft an event plan aimed at hosting an event within the hospitality industry across Orange County, all while learning about the many job roles within the industry itself. They will end the program via the interns actually putting on the planned event to an audience of nearly 1000 community representatives.
FPP offers this program with a goal to not only teach interns how to engage readily in a professional environment following graduation, regardless of their path, but also to teach them personal financial capability, leadership acumen, and both transferable and industry-specific skills they can use to further their effectiveness in the workforce for years to come. It will do this using daily facilitation; guest expert sessions; guest mentors for each individual intern; topic-specific workshops, and more.
Kars4Kids: How was the FPP impacted by the pandemic? A lot of our small grant recipients tell us that the pandemic actually made them better organizations and in some cases helped them reach a wider number of youth thanks to online platforms like Zoom. Is that FPP’s experience, too?
Bill Mills: FPP grew significantly during the pandemic, because we were well prepared to go virtual.
This was especially the case with the internship programs. In 2020, the local schools had a very difficult time finding internships for the students. We told them that we would take as many as they could send us. This grew the BMFI program rather quickly (over double in size) and built strong relationships with the school districts that has continued since.
Kars4Kids: What’s next for the FPP?
Bill Mills: FPP hopes to grow this internship program statewide and, eventually, across the country. We have a model that can be set-up rather inexpensively, with the correct partners that we can easily duplicate.
It is an absolute blessing to hear from our past interns about the successes that they achieve as the result of the internship program. I wish we could do this for every rising high school senior!