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Getting schooled in financial literacy By Christopher Cadelago

Posted on November 7th, 2010.

Getting schooled in financial literacy
Recently arrived youth from around the world get lessons in money management

By Christopher Cadelago, UNION-TRIBUNE

Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 9:25 a.m.

BALBOA PARK — Medina Andar lived in Pakistan, Iran and Azerbaijan before settling into City Heights as a 19-year-old refugee. Although Andar spoke Russian, Farsi, Urdu, Turkish and Azeri – along with some English, she struggled with another type of communication: financial literacy.

“The thing is I didn’t have any self-confidence when I got here,” said Andar, now 20. “Education is now the biggest fun for me.”

Her lessons in money management through the Alliance for African Assistance, sponsored by the United Way of San Diego County, works with youth who recently arrived in the United States. The children take basic lessons about budgets, the banking system, the importance of receipts and understanding a paycheck.

Last week, Andar and her classmates were the subjects of a photography exhibit called “Kids & Money,” part of United Way’s 90th anniversary celebration. By teaching financial literacy to young children, the organization was able to impact their future and the future of their families, said Doug Sawyer,` the group’s president and chief executive.

“These photos help the public see the joy and confidence that basic money skills can bring to a child’s life,” Sawyer said.

The photographs, which were on display in Balboa Park, were taken by Katie Gardner at three youth-related programs: the Alliance for African Assistance; Junior Achievement’s Biz Town; and Social Advocates for Youth, offering a program for at-risk children and teenagers that teaches basic financial principles of credit and debt.

Andar says she’s made significant adjustments to her life since completing the course. For one, the adult-school student volunteers and works as an interpreter. She also spends time teaching her friends and parents the importance of holding on to their pennies.

Eh “Kai” Mo, originally from Myanmar, came to San Diego in 2009 after living for three years in a Thai refugee camp. Before her financial education program began, she helped recruit friends. But as classes continued the 17-year-old became more teacher than student, encouraging her peers to put their knowledge of checking and savings, credit and debt, and taxes into action, program adviser Ali Wolters said.

“Her enthusiasm about the material is contagious, and it has helped me continue to stay motivated with each of my classes — seeing the impact it has had on her and many other students of mine,” Wolters said.

During Kai’s last class, she took a field trip to a bank and deposited $50 of earned-incentive money to open her first bank account.

christopher.cadelago@uniontrib.com • (619) 293-1334 • Twitter @ccadelago

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