"I sold a million records, now I gotta way to pay. Got dollars in my wallet, and the rest is in the bank… Candy ain't free, I pay with this cheese. Give me cash money candy!" --Cash Credit Candy music video
Combine the talents of an America's Got Talent ventriloquist with the University of Cincinnati's Alpaugh Family Economics Center and Madcap puppets in the WCET-TV studio and you get $martPath videos teaching financial literacy to grade school students.
It was "a crazy idea," admits Julie Heath, the director of UC's Economics Center, which operates the $martPath online financial literacy platform for students and teachers.
Soon the $martPath site will offer music videos starring Megan Phipus, a 2010 Princeton High School graduate who performed as a ventriloquist on NBC's America's Got Talent in 2013. Piphus, who has a bachelor's degree in economics and a master's degree in finance from Vanderbilt University, wrote all the songs and lyrics for $martPath with Megan Phipus.
WCET-TV producer Colin Scianamblo wrote, produced and directed the videos at Channel 48 and on location over the past 12 months. Legendary Cincinnati funk master Bootsy Collins and his wife, Patti, also produced one of the videos.
Sometime this spring $martPath videos will air on WCET-TV (Channel 48) and sister PBS Kids Channels 14.3 and 16.5, Scianamblo says. Eventually they will be made available to all PBS stations, he says.
"Ultimately the goal is to have enough content to stitch together a full program," says Kathy Palmer, marketing director for UC's Alpaugh Family Economics Center.
"$martPath with Megan Phipus is an innovative way to teach financial literacy," Scianamblo says.
Heath reached out to Piphus after reading an Enquirer story about her TV appearances on America's Got Talent, Jay Leno's Tonight Show and Fox's Showtime At The Apollo. Piphus had been introduced to ventriloquism at age 10, and was known as the "valedictorian ventriloquist" from her graduation speech with her puppet, George, on YouTube.
Now based in Nashville, she took a break from her real estate development job to come home and film the videos last year.
Bootsy Collins says he met her over social media and watched her puppet videos, not realizing she was also a musician.
"I had no idea she could sing. I was like, 'Wow!' She wrote the music and sang everything on it," Collins said at the premiere party Tuesday at UC's Innovation Center. "Besides the music, the message is just so appealing to me."
The Alpaugh Family Economics Center at UC is a non-profit organization with 42 years' experience training teachers, developing classroom materials and implementing innovative school programs that provide financial education for students from kindergarten through high school. The videos add to the curriculum in the $martPath online learning platform used by teachers in 16 states, Palmer says.