Student's musical belts out financial literacy

By Angie Marcos, Orange County Register |  May 27, 2014


Tim Alexander, a 22-year-old Cal State Fullerton student, recently wrote and produced a version of the Tony Award-winning musical “Rent” – with an educational twist.

Alexander’s production, titled “Rent: A Financial Literacy Spectacular,” aimed to promote financial literacy among college students. It was his third version of the “Rent” production focused on the subject.

Songs including “What You Own,” “Life Support,” “Will I,” and “Rent” were performed with adapted lyrics that touched on topics like budgeting, credit card use and identity theft.

Alexander, who is in CSUF’s bachelor of fine arts acting program, put together his first “Rent” production in 2012 after being asked to prepare a presentation on financial literacy while he was working as a student assistant in the Division of Student Affairs.

“I felt like there needed to be a show that raised awareness about what’s going on financially and about my struggles,” said Alexander, who is a Guardian Scholar.

The CSUF Guardian Scholar program aims to meet the unmet needs of emancipated foster youth and provide them with a well-rounded university experience. The competitive program provides the living costs and tuition of its scholars and offers academic support and counseling services.

While students used to rehearse for the production in the residence halls, they now have assigned rehearsal space in the Theatre and Dance Department, Alexander said.

He also recalled having to use an iTunes gift card in order to purchase music for the production. This year, with the aid of a $20,000 grant from Bank of America, Alexander was able to hire a live band, provide food and refreshments and create better quality sets and promotional materials such as videos, fliers, posters and t-shirts.

“The grant is focused on providing opportunities to drive financial wellness for the student body,” said Regino Diaz, Bank of America area executive and senior vice president. “This is the first time (college students) will be on their own; these are decisions that will impact them long term.”

“We’ve always been involved with the campus in some shape or form,” said Diaz, who is on the Marketing and Communication Board Committee for Cal State Fullerton Philanthropic Foundation. “We are really trying to make a difference.”

Diaz graduated from CSUF in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in finance. He went on to graduate in 2003 with a master’s degree in business administration.

The grant will also help veterans become more financially knowledgeable by providing on-campus financial education workshops, as well as help the university enhance its financial literacy website by including educational material from Bank of America’s Better Money Habits website, Diaz said. Bank of America recently approved a second $20,000 grant for CSUF next year.

This summer Alexander will take part in an internship program at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C.

“I love working with students, but I am so excited to cross that line and start working with professionals,” Alexander said.

In the future, he hopes to explore and raise awareness of political, social and cultural issues through his passion for theater.

“I hope to produce musicals around the U.S. in areas that don’t necessarily want theater, but need it,” Alexander said. “I think people retain more information through song and dance.”

“Rent: A Financial Literacy Spectacular” was performed last month during CSUF’s Arts Week. Fifteen students performed in this year’s production.

This article originally appeared in the Orange County Register publication. Content was produced by outside parties not affiliated with Bank of America. Opinions or ideas expressed are not necessarily those of Bank of America, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, U.S. Trust or Bank of America Merrill Lynch, nor do they reflect their views or endorsement. These materials are for informational purposes only. Bank of America, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, U.S. Trust and Bank of America Merrill Lynch do not assume liability for any loss or damage resulting from anyone's reliance on the information provided.

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