Student Ambassador News

SFE&PD FINANCIAL LITERACY LESSONS GO GLOBAL!

Ginie Lynch, SFE&PD’s Director of Communications, talks with SFE&PD Student Ambassadors who taught financial literacy video lessons for young adults globally through the U.S. Department of State’s Young African Leaders Initiative Network. Here is their take on their experiences and advice for their peers.

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Yulianna Charris
SFE&PD Student Ambassador (2018-20), Florida Memorial University
Home: Caracas, Venezuela
Describe what was it like to represent the Student Ambassador Program by teaching a financial literacy class for the U.S. Department of State’s Young Leaders Initiative Network that is being be shown to young people across the globe.
I felt excited and grateful about the opportunity and honored to be a part of this project! But as the filming approached, I started to feel a bit nervous because I wanted to give 100 percent. I came to the United States to study at 17 because there are more opportunities here. I took a leap of faith because I did not speak English well! My Dad said if I wanted to study in the States, it needed to be not too far away from home (Venezuela) and where I could get a scholarship. I played volleyball in high school and sent videos from my games to coaches at schools in Florida. I was so lucky to get accepted and a full ride from Florida Memorial University (FMU) in Miami Gardens, where I played on the volleyball team! I enjoyed the video filming experience. All the crew and staff in Washington, D.C. made me feel welcome and comfortable and made me laugh and relax. I had so much fun, it was an amazing time. Furthermore, knowing that this video lesson on “Budgeting for your Future” will help young people globally made it even more incredible.
Is financial literacy taught in universities in Venezuela?
No, not really. This is a difficult question to explain. Venezuela is in the worst political and economic crisis now. For young people like me it is hard to be economic independent. As of today, the minimum wage is $4.60 monthly, and according to Forbes magazine, the inflation rate in 2019 was 10,398%. This situation makes it extremely hard for anybody to budget, invest, or even think about the future. It is difficult to live in Venezuela because of extreme widespread poverty. Most young people are fighting for their economic survival every day.
Describe what it was like to teach your peers about financial literacy as an SFE&PD Student Ambassador at Florida Memorial University.
It was one of my best college experiences! Not only I got to educate my peers about important financial topics, but I also learned a lot. Having these financial conversations are crucial in this stage of our lives. It felt nourishing to empower other students and to help them make sound financial decisions. I learned about finance- taxes, investing, planning for my future – by teaching my peers. I also represented FMU at the SFE&PD 12th Annual Financial Literacy Leadership Conference where we showcased our ambassador work during a peer-to-peer financial workshop. I really want to become a certified financial planner and keep teaching financial education and giving back to students in the States and eventually, in Venezuela.
If you could give one piece of financial literacy advice to your peers, what would it be?
First things first – start thinking about your future and economic goals as soon as you get in college. Do not wait until you graduate. Make a plan of how to manage your money to get to where you want to be – plan a budget and stick to it! Save for your future and think long-term.
What are your career goals and how did serving as an SFE&PD Student Ambassador helped you prepare for your future?
My next step is to work for a financial company with values and principles that align with mine and in a respectful place where they focus on diversity and inclusion and concentrate on the growth and development of their employees. I want to keep growing and learning, professionally and personally. I am happy to report I just started a position as a Provider Compensation Specialist at Team Health in Miami!
Being a Student Ambassador helped me to develop and improve my interpersonal skills, public speaking abilities, and my knowledge of financial topics. It also helped to me to empathize and understand my peers’ financial problems and made me want to help them find solutions. I appreciate that SFE&PD has given me many leadership opportunities! Mr. Ted Daniels was helpful and gave us as Student Ambassadors the opportunity for our ideas and voices to be heard and incorporated in the financial literacy classes we taught. Thank you to Mr. Daniels and the SFE&PD team for being warm and welcoming to me as an international student!
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Theophilus Tagoe
SFE&PD SFE&PD Student Ambassador (2019-20), North Carolina Central University
Home: Accra, Ghana
Describe what was it like to represent the Student Ambassador Program by teaching a financial literacy class for the U.S. Department of State’s Young Leaders Initiative Network that is being be shown to young people across the globe.
I felt like a movie star doing the shoot for the U.S. State Department of State Young Leaders Initiative video and traveling to Washington, D.C. to film it! I am elated to be able to reach young people who are just like me back in Ghana, where there are few opportunities to learn about financial literacy unless you are a college student studying business or finance, and even this is limited. I hope I can reach out to people and share the video lessons not only with students but also young professionals who need this education back home. I will be telling friends and family to watch to watch the lesson I taught on “Investing, Credit and Debt Management.”

It was special to me to be able to reach young people in sub-Saharan Africa and the bigger audience to speak to the world. It was a tremendous opportunity to participate in this worthwhile project and to make a real difference in people’s lives with useful financial education.
Is financial literacy taught in universities in Ghana?
Unfortunately, in Ghana, there is little emphasis on teaching financial lessons in schools or universities. Most people in Ghana are unbanked and do not understand the services banks provide and instead use “money collectors” to hold to their money and distrust banks. I heard that due the Covid lockdown, college students in Ghana are starting to track financial advice and know a few college professors trying to teach financial education online, but there is not a uniform approach. Even if you study finance in college and get a business degree, you may not be able to find a job and may have to live at home because of the standard of living in Ghana is low. Financial education is needed.
Describe what it was like to teach your peers about financial literacy as an SFE&PD Student Ambassador at North Carolina Central University.
When got the offer to be a Financial Student Ambassador, I was truly honored to be selected. This made me appreciate the fact I have come a long way and that as a Student Ambassador teaching financial literacy classes, my hard work had not gone unnoticed. I enjoyed presented to my peers at NCCU – as I got to know each fellow student, I learned about their financial challenges through working with smaller groups and could help them with specific financial advice.
If you could give one piece of financial literacy advice to your peers, what would it be?
My advice to college students: there is a lot to money to be made in the professional world if you follow your dreams, work hard, save money and don’t spend all that you have! Limited your budget to necessities. Save more and be prudent. I recommend spending on what you need and not buying too many unnecessary material things so that you can increase your wealth in the long-term.
What are your career goals and how did serving as a Student Ambassador helped to prepare you for your future?
I graduated from North Carolina Central University this year with a degree in finance, and my goal is a career in financial services. Three months ago, I started a job with Citi in New York in Sales and Trading as a Global Markets Analyst. Being a trainee with Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), a nonprofit that provides educational and career support to young people from underserved communities, helped me find this job. In 10 to 15 years, I would like to return home to Ghana. Growing up in Ghana, it was rough living in an emerging market economy where there are few economic opportunities for young people, even those who have college degrees. There is a big gap between the rich and poor in Ghana. That is why I want to work in financial systems to “pay it forward” with the people in my country and help them to acquire the knowledge I learned through my education and work in the United States.

Being an SFE&PD Student Ambassador was a great experience. I was able to learn about personal finance and I want to continue to teach others what I learned. I am grateful for the skills I acquired as a public speaker and the confidence serving as an Ambassador instilled in me along with new leadership skills. I look forward to continuing to help students at NCCU and SFE&PD to pass on financial knowledge and share it with my peers!