Paying it Forward: Young Adults Teach Young Adults Dollars & Sense

BTP Teach FinCap BlogWhen Juan Carlos started MEDA’s free, 10-week Bilingual Bank Teller Program, where 17- to 24-year-olds learn how to work in the financial sector, the last thing he thought he’d be doing at the end of the course was teaching other  young adults what he had just learned. The City College student, focusing on economics, came to Plaza Adelante on the counsel of his aunt, who had learned of the free program and knew it aligned perfectly with her nephew’s field of study.

In an interesting turn of events on Monday night in MEDA’s packed computer lab, the 21-year-old Mission resident was joined by a trio of other incipient graduates of the Bilingual Bank Teller Program, as Juan Carlos, Yesnia, Diana and Randy formed a team to lead a two-hour seminar on financial capability. This meant DISC—an acronym for Debt, Income, Savings, Credit—the model used at MEDA to ensure asset building and economic success for financially challenged families in the Mission.

Who were these 23 students, who mirrored their teachers by ranging in age from 17 to 24? Most came from John O’Connell High School, either as recent graduates or having graduated in the past few years. This school is part of the Mission Promise Neighborhood, whereby kids are guided on a cradle-to-college-to-career continuum by family success coaches whose objective it is to ensure that every family succeeds and every student achieves.

Explaining the genesis of last night’s innovative class, MEDA Technology Training Coordinator Leo Sosa explained, “We want the Bilingual Bank Teller class to give back to the community. This is essential—it means paying it forward.”

Echoed MEDA Job Coach Olivia Quinonez, “This is a great community event. As someone who works with young jobseekers every day, I was especially pleased to hear the answer to the question of what they would do with a million dollars. I was expecting more misguided answers, but what I heard were such things a start their own business, buy a home or provide for their family. They were engrossed in the class, which was great.”

Juan Carlos took to the floor first, imparting his newly attained fiscal ken. He knew that few high school students have been advised about financial capability. Some parents may endeavor to do so, but too many are not good with their own money, translating to their not being about to teach their children fiscal responsibility.

Fellow teacher-for-the-night Yesenia, a 20-year-old Mission District resident, originally heard about the Bilingual Bank Teller Program after coming to MEDA to get her taxes done at no cost. When the tax preparer spoke of the free Bilingual Bank Teller Program, Yesenia immediately signed up. With regard to teaching the class, she stated, “We need to teach young people how to save money and realize how much they are spending.” Yesenia taught about budgeting and found that few of her students had a budget or even knew how to set one up. “I am proud that I could help in this regard. It’s important in the community,” she exclaimed.

All students departed with a gift: CitiBank gave out $25 VISA cards so that students could start budgeting right away, putting what they learned into practice. You can bank on the fact that they now have the knowledge to do so after the powerful message they received from their peers.