Dollars and sense
Robin McKinney, a Maryland Coalition for Financial
Literacy volunteer, addresses ESOL students at Eleanor Roosevelt
High School on April 27.
Photo by Brenda
Financial-literacy lessons a boon to
Maryland's immigrant students, families
By Jan Lucas
The TU-based Maryland Coalition for Financial Literacy is bringing everyday money-management skills to one of the state's underserved populations: high-school students who are immigrants or the children of immigrants.
Founded in 2003, the nonprofit division of the Maryland Council on Economic Education is continuing its efforts to help adults—from teenagers to senior citizens—learn how to deal with important financial and economic decisions.
In April, as part of Financial Literacy Month observances, the coalition focused on English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students in approximately 50 Maryland high schools.
“We needed to reach out to this group,” says Allen C. Cox, the coalition’s managing director. “Most public high schools don’t teach these skills, and ESOL students are especially affected because they often act as their parents’ interpreters.”
Cox, a retired Prince George’s County social studies teacher, says he concentrated on financial issues of particular relevance to immigrants: the importance of having a checking account, the use and abuse of credit, and how to avoid fraud and identity theft.
“Immigrants frequently are victimized by people who take advantage of their financial illiteracy,” Cox adds. “In teaching these students, we believe that entire families stand to benefit.”
To deliver this much-needed information, he designed the presentations and recruited 65 volunteer presenters from area businesses, nonprofits and schools. After attending a training session at the Baltimore branch of the Richmond Federal Reserve, volunteers fanned out across the state during the week of April 23−27 to deliver 90-minute sessions to about 2,200 ESOL students. Twenty-two of Maryland’s 24 school districts participated.
The attendees represented a variety of nationalities, says Cox. “Most were Hispanic, but there were students from West Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe too. It was a real mix of ethnicities and cultures.”
Many faculty members at participating schools praised the coalition’s financial-literacy efforts. Idelmi Guity, a teacher at Baltimore’s Patterson Park High School, says the program is a valuable tool for her ESOL students. "Many get into debt before they even know what it is and how it works," she says. “Students need to learn these concepts to be able to make better decisions in the real world.”
For more information , go to Maryland Coalition for Financial Literacy
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