A county in north-central Iowa is launching a first-in-the-nation program that aims to help the area’s youngest students start saving for college.

Rick Young of Jewell is the director of the Financial Literacy Council of Greater Hamilton County. Young calls the effort a financial literacy initiative. “Every kindergartener in Hamilton County will receive a 529 savings account with $100 in it,” Young says. “$75 per kindergartener will come from Availa Bank and their Availa Kares program and $25 of it will come from the Hamilton County supervisors.”

In addition to the investment by Availa Bank, which is based in Carroll, the county is drawing its portion from local option sales taxes. During the course of the student’s K-12 education in the county, the account can grow through earned incentives. Young says it sends an important message.

“Bring your children to Hamilton County because we care about them here,” Young says. “This is the first county-wide program of its type in the nation. We’re proud of our people. We’re proud of our kids. We want people to succeed and to stay here in Hamilton County after they graduate as well.” After graduation from high school, students can use the funds for expenses to obtain a post-secondary education — whether it’s at a college, university or trade school.

Learn more about the program through the Financial Literacy Council’s website, www.financialliteracycouncil.com.

(By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)