HRA Teens Build Their Own Scholarship Fund

CAFCA | November 19, 2014 |

Thirteen teens learned how much it costs to live this past summer – the price of food, clothing, housing, 

transportation and other necessities. They also learned about credit and debt; saving and managing money and 

how their career choices will impact their budget. 

Asfia Qutub realized that “…life as an adult is complicated but knowing how to save and manage money 

should make it easier.” 

The teens now understand the difference between buying what they want vs. buying what they need - and 

how to improvise. “Going to the movies has to wait if I don’t have the money. But instead of spending $10 at 

the theater, I can rent a move for $1 and watch it at home,” says Natalie Criniti.

Asfia was tempted to spend money on needless clothes and entertainment but chose to save for textbooks 

and dorm supplies. “When I got to college, I was glad I made the right choice – books cost far more than I 

expected. Thankfully, I didn’t have to ask my parents for money.”

Asfia, Natalie and 11 other teens took advantage of a unique opportunity to build their own scholarship fund 

as participants in the Human Resources Agency, Inc.’s (HRA) Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program 

(SYELP). It is part of the State’s and Capital Workforce Partners’ regional summer employment and learning 


These teens deposited $50 of their weekly earnings into their new savings accounts at Farmington 

Bank. The American Savings Foundation and the U.S. Assets for Independence (AFI)/Individual 

Development Accounts (IDAs) matched their $250 savings with $2,000. By the end of the five weeks 

each of these youth had $2,250 in their own scholarship fund.

“Students in this program are getting a jumpstart on their college savings and on the money 

management skills they will need throughout their lives,” said David Davison, president and CEO of 

American Savings Foundation.

According to Marlo Greponne, Director of HRA’s Planning and Programs, “We developed this 

approach to get teens invested in saving for college. Matched savings plans demand a long-term 

commitment. They are not a quick-fix and part of the challenge is keeping youth engaged.” 

Natalie’s job at Avery’s was her first. “This job was the best thing that happened to me in a long 

time – it gave me the independence I’ve been wanting. I plan to work there and save money until I go 

to college.” She almost passed up this opportunity but her family encouraged her to be a part of HRA’s 


Asfia’s job at CCSU’s Early Learning Center, also her first, “was an unforgettable experience. It gave 

me great insight as to what I can expect as a teacher.”

Asfia graduated from New Britain High School in June 2014 and is enrolled at UCONN in Storrs studying 

secondary education. She chose UCONN because of its five-year integrated Bachelors and Master’s program. 

Teaching is “…a way I can give back to the community with a career that I genuinely enjoy.”

Natalie is a senior at the Sport and Medical Sciences Academy in Hartford. Her focus is on grades, the 

yearbook club and college next fall. She is also working on her Capstone project – collecting used school 

uniforms for the needy. Natalie is exploring career options for working with children. “I want to be a role model 

like I’ve been for my younger sisters.”

Thirteen students completed HRA’s summer youth “Build Your Own Scholarship” project this past summer. 

Ten graduated from high school and entered college or post-secondary education this fall. The other three 

returned to high school. Both Asfia and Natalie are the first ones in their family to attend college.