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GOODING performed at the Chadron High School last Thursday, teaching students about the importance of financial literacy. Record photo by Brandon Davenport

Financial Literacy is not an exciting subject no matter what your age, but the younger you become financially literate, the better off you’re going to be. So how do you get teenagers excited about it? Do you get teenagers excited about it?

The subject is difficult at best to approach, so local parents may have been relieved to find out there’s a group of people out there who were prepared to do just that Thursday during an afternoon assembly at Chadron High School.

But a school assembly with a band that’s going to rock financial literacy into the hearts and minds of high schoolers? We all remember school assemblies. Is that something that can actually work?

Steven Gooding, lead singer of GOODING, seems to know that being branded as “the coolest financial adviser in America” by the Wall Street Journal isn’t going to cut it with a bunch of high schoolers packed into an auditorium.

Give these kids credit, they can smell authenticity a mile away, and if “Jimmy the Financial Rocker” bursts on stage ready to share some rockin’ beats about finances, he’ll have lost their attention before the first riff.

Even if the music of GOODING was likely a little off the beaten path from what high school age people are listening to these days, it was easy to spot the authenticity on stage. Attendees couldn’t deny that it was good music played by talented artists.

More importantly it was just music, as much as music can ever be “just music.” It wasn’t clever vocals telling the audience how they should balance their checkbooks; it wasn’t rhyme and verse about compounding interest.

GOODING as band is more than just the Financial Literacy Tour. They were an accomplished act prior to helping others manage their money, having toured the US playing thousands of shows. Their music is even featured in several films and popular television shows.

The band came out, played good rock and roll, bowed out, came back on stage and spoke to local students honestly and authentically about the importance of financial literacy.

The format of getting the students engaged in the program through music, then hitting with them with the financial stuff afterward seems to work. It’s Gooding’s authenticity again that sells the message though. It’s evident that he’s speaking to the students from a place of experience as someone who’s made the mistakes and wants to help others not do the same.

In fact, the Funding the Future organization that is the charitable backbone of the band’s Financial Literacy Tour was created by GOODING itself. “I thought about all the mistakes I made coming up, screwing up my credit,” says Gooding, who then began to look into how he could use his own talents and his own resources to do good for others.

After the presentation, which is best described by the band’s website as discussing “predatory lending, the danger or credit card debt, saving early…while exposing the myth of rock starts; athletes and actors who sell the false image of overnight success,” the band stuck around to answer additional questions from, sign autographs for, and take pictures with, students who seemed genuinely attentive and excited about what they had just experienced. As Gooding says, “music makes the medicine go down.”

GOODING is comprised of Gooding, Jesse Reichenberger, Erin O’Neill, and Eric Santagada. They’re backed by the Funding the Future charitable organization and sponsored by Raymond James, United Way, The Millstone Evans Group of Raymond James, First Interstate Bank, and the Nebraska Council of Economic Education. Their performance was sponsored locally by First National Bank of Chadron, Chadron Federal Credit Union, Bank of the West, Security First Bank, and Farmers State Bank.

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