When I went to university, I enrolled in a program that had co-op work terms. My choice was not accidental. I intentionally chose a program with work terms because I wanted to get experience in my field, work in an office, and get paid a decent wage.
But when the time came to secure my summer job, I was not impressed with my choices. The vast majority of the employers were either in administration, energy extraction, or defense industries. At the time, I was heavily invested in the idea of doing good, and I wanted something more out of my work terms. I wanted to have a positive impact on my world. It was this desire that led me to my work terms in the not-for-profit sector.
For each of my three work terms, I scored a job at a not-for-profit, and I loved them all. I had a diverse range of experiences and was able to work with students, people with disabilities, and the economically disadvantaged. I worked in a variety of roles but my favourite position by far was when I got to teach students financial literacy skills.
Ever since then, and especially since I’ve had my personal finance awakening, I’ve been drawn to causes that teach financial literacy to students when they need it most.
This passion is why I want to highlight an organization that has captured my imagination over the past few weeks: Enactus.
Enactus is an organization that inspires university-aged students to use their entrepreneurial talents to bring about social progress in their community. Teams from universities and colleges across the world use their talent and ingenuity to enact (see what I did there?) social change. Their academic advisors mentor them, and community business experts guide them to put a business plan into motion that will not only be sustainable but will also help their community.
In Canada, regional competitions are split into four categories or challenges, including the Capital One Financial Education Challenge.
The Capital One Financial Education Challenge
For the fifth year, Capital One Canada has sponsored the Capital One Financial Education Challenge, where student teams focus on empowering under-resourced communities to improve their lives through financial literacy, knowledge and education.
This year, the Enactus team from Saint Mary’s University was one of the winners of the eastern Canada regional competition. Although this isn’t my alma mater, I still feel a kinship towards them as they’re from my city.
Here’s what they did: (or watch the video for the short version)
The Enactus Saint Mary’s team targeted at-risk youth in Halifax. These young people are taught the financial literacy skills they need to be successful in the workforce, start businesses, find long-term employment and return to school. Their project is called OPtions: Youth.
The program offers participants a three-pronged approach. First, OPtions: Youth provides micro-loans to students who needed them and can’t get funding from traditional lenders. The loans might be small, for example, enough to buy bus tickets to get to and from work. Or the loans might be larger, for example, hundreds of dollars to pay rent. The loan terms are flexible and tailored to each student’s needs.
Second, the Saint Mary’s team coaches youth on employability “soft skills” to help them gain confidence and find stable long-term employment. Finally, each participant is paired with a mentor. Their mentors help them to continue honing their skills.
Through their work with the students, the Enactus Saint Mary’s team lifted 69 young people out of poverty. Also, eight participants are pursuing post-secondary education, and six have become entrepreneurs.
It’s all very cool stuff, and these university students blow me away. I mean, I thought I was a go-getter, but these kids are in a league of their own! These are our future world leaders, people.
Building financial literacy is important, but it is so easy to end up preaching to the choir and only reaching folks who have already heard your message.
That’s why I love the Capital One Financial Education Challenge. It’s financial literacy from university students to others who need it.
Honestly, I wish I had had someone around to teach me about financial literacy when I was a student. Maybe I wouldn’t have been stuck with thousands in student loans after graduation.
Now tell me: What is the most important financial lesson you learned as a young adult just starting to manage your own money? The students may use this to improve their program and your comment could be featured in a future post!
This post is part of a sponsored collaboration with Capital One Canada. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.