Sarah Louise Butler, Dakota County financial empowerment Extension educator, was recently awarded a $1,000 grant to continue teaching Dakota County Jail inmates how to achieve financial stability as they re-enter society.
“I am honored by the nomination and the award,” Sarah said. “I love helping people discover within themselves the power to change their financial situations and to meet their goals, and this grant means I can keep doing just that.”
In 2015, Sarah and a former Dakota County Jail AmeriCorps VISTA staff member James Lodovic developed a curriculum called Financial Literacy and Tenant Education (FLiTE), which covers topics such as setting financial goals; understanding and improving credit; budgeting and saving; tackling debt; and finding and keeping rental housing. The Dakota County Jail FLiTE Project is part of the Dakota County Financial Empowerment Initiative under the Community Services Division.
The FLiTE curriculum was a perfect fit for Dakota County Jail, which puts programming for inmates at the heart of its correctional mission. The jail rolled out FLiTE in early 2015, adding it to other offerings such as GED and other adult basic education classes, as well as classes and workshops on college success, parenting, and job readiness, among others.
Since FLiTE was introduced, 98 participants at the Dakota County Jail have completed all eight units of the curriculum. Participants found the information so useful that Dakota County’s inmate outreach coordinator, Kelsey Knops, nominated Sarah for an Affinity Plus Foundation Cultivator Grant to cover the costs of the program. On November 22, Sarah found out that she had been awarded the grant. “When I heard the news, I was shocked because there are not many awards for financial education like this,” Sarah said.
Sarah’s relationship with the Dakota County Jail began with her role as a Dakota County financial empowerment Extension educator with the Community Mentorship Program, a financial education initiative offered by FD in partnership with the Minnesota Council for Economic Education. Skills to manage personal finances and be a successful renter are important for improving ex-offenders’ financial stability and expanding their housing opportunities. When inmates understand how to save and manage their money, they are less likely to turn to illicit means to supplement their income when they get out of jail.
To read more stories about Extension's work in this area, see Family Matters: Financial Capability.