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Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a series of United Way of Bay County Partner Agency profiles:

BAY CITY, MI — The United Way of Bay County’s annual fundraising campaign is under way and in conjunction, The Bay City Times is taking the opportunity to profile the United Way’s 20 partner agencies.

United Way officials aim to raise $1.02 million through this year’s campaign and plan to make an allocation of pledged funds on April 1.

Last year’s campaign netted about $1 million, $644,000 of which was disbursed to partner agencies in Bay County to help fund specific programs.

To donate, call the United Way of Bay County at 989-893-7508, drop by United Way headquarters at 909 Washington Ave. or visit unitedwaybaycounty.org.

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Elmo and his “Sesame Street” buddies could soon be having two-way conversations of sorts with children.

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit producer of “Sesame Street,” and the children’s speech recognition company ToyTalk plan to announce Monday that they have signed a two-year research partnership agreement to explore how to use conversational technology to teach preschool literacy.

The agreement formalizes work the two have been undertaking for more than a year. Sesame Workshop has been testing prototype mobile apps that use ToyTalk’s proprietary PullString technology, a combination of speech recognition meant to understand children’s speech patterns, artificial intelligence and prewritten scripts responding to what a child has said.

The first products resulting from the partnership could be available early next year, said Miles Ludwig, managing director of Sesame Workshop’s Content Innovation Lab. Products that more formally teach children to read will take longer, however. When it comes to technology that tells children whether they pronounced a written word correctly — as opposed to, for example, asking them to come up with a word that rhymes with “cat” or discuss their feelings — “We need the accuracy to be very high,” Mr. Ludwig said.

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In 2007 Halil Ünsal enrolled as a finance student at Bahçeşehir University driven by the belief that sound financial management is key to sustaining Turkey’s growth. After two years of business and maths courses Ünsal realised he still had not learned to manage his own personal finances.

Ünsal was not alone. Among the 37.5 million people under 30 in Turkey four out of five still do not save for major purchases, according to The life style, social preferences and financial behaviour of young people aged 15-30 study, conducted in 2009 by Era Research for Visa Europe Turkey. Many avoid contact with financial institutions because they don’t know how to open a checking account or because of a negative experience like seeing a parent default on a loan.

The global financial crisis demonstrated the impact of excessive spending and poor financial literacy. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis Visa Europe Turkey, the Turkish ministry of development, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and Habitat Center for Development teamed up to help youth take control of their financial future, one decision at a time.

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