15 Years of Service with SecureFutures

As SecureFutures celebrates 15 years of empowering youth with financial education, it’s also the perfect time to share a few stories of some of our longest-standing volunteers and supporters, many of whom have been with the organization since the very beginning.

Though their experiences are all different, our volunteers all have one thing in common: their true commitment and desire to ensure that teens have knowledge and tools to become financially capable and build their own secure futures.

Let’s meet some of these volunteers and supporters who’ve so generously provided us with their time and skills over the past 15 years.

 

Nina V.A. Johnson, MBA

SVP/WI Branch Banking Market Leader, U.S. Bank

Nina Johnson

Nina already had a successful banking career when she first began volunteering with SecureFutures at its inception 15 years ago—in fact, she was SecureFutures’ first volunteer!

It was meant to be. Right before Nina became involved, she’d had her youngest child. This inspired her desire to give back to the next generation. She’d also felt that it was time to teach. So, when she received an email from her employer asking for volunteer support of a new nonprofit designed to teach financial independence, she decided it was the perfect time to get involved and see what she could contribute.

It wasn’t long after Nina taught her first SecureFutures class that she was also asked to help build out the organization’s board. From that experience, she says, “I gleaned what it was like to truly be a part of volunteerism. I also experienced what it was like to serve on a well-functioning, well-run board from the ground up.”

True Impact

Nina says that the platform of the curriculum really opened the door to many meaningful conversations with students. In fact, one of the students contacted Nina after she graduated as a young, single mom living on her own and used Nina’s business card to inquire about a job. Not long after, she was hired by Nina’s former financial institution, giving her access to the banking industry and a new outlook on her young life.

There’s another story Nina says she’ll never forget. She remembers one particular advisory board meeting at Hmong American Peace Academy, where a SecureFutures student shared that he took the information he learned in the program home, translated it to his non-English speaking parents, and helped save his family from going into foreclosure.

Those are just two instances of the great impact the SecureFutures program has had over the years. “It’s sincerely been an honor just to witness the growth of this organization over the past 15 years,” says Nina.

 

David Polk

Director, Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development

David Polk

David Polk first heard about SecureFutures in 2005, when we entered a partnership with his then employer, the City of Milwaukee, to seek out volunteers to help deliver the organization’s curriculum in classrooms. At that time, David was excited about the opportunity to volunteer after he learned about the program.

“I absolutely loved the mission [of SecureFutures] and I was very interested in going back to my [high school] alma mater to teach the program,” he said.

Once he started teaching in the classroom, David found he genuinely enjoyed getting up in front of young people to spread the message of financial responsibility. And because he began his career as a tradesperson, David was able to share his experience and opportunities unique to the skilled trades. “Spreading the message about a career in the trades was a wonderful opportunity, one that they might not have otherwise heard about.”

In addition to his work in the classroom, David eventually went on to join the SecureFutures board, where he was instrumental in bringing on more volunteers through his work with the City of Milwaukee. And David is not finished yet, as he will return to the board of directors for a new term starting in July.

A Wonderful Experience

David says that being in the classroom was a wonderful experience. “You go by the curriculum but you’re able to riff on it and really plug in. You can take different things from your own life experience to make your delivery authentic. There has to be some background as to why financial literacy is important to you and why it should be important to them.”

Sharing his story of financial literacy hit home with a lot of students. “They realize this is something that’s not a myth. They’re talking to a person that did it, who grew up in the same neighborhoods they may live in. And that was such a rewarding opportunity to me.”

For David, some of his most inspiring experiences have involved catching up with students long after his classes are complete, often by chance.

He saw one former student at the grocery store who recognized him. “I always ask, how are you doing? How are things going? And he had become a laborer. He had joined the laborer’s union. He was making good money. And that just warmed my heart.”

 

Ellen Drought

Attorney, Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.

Ellen Drought

As a Milwaukee native who cares about youth in the city, Ellen Drought was immediately drawn to SecureFuture’s message when she first heard about it through her work with Godfrey & Kahn.

“I’m an investment attorney and previously taught English as a Second Language, so the combination of classroom teaching and empowering teens through greater financial literacy fit well with my interests and background,” says Ellen.

Ellen has witnessed firsthand just how valuable SecureFutures’ content is for students. “It helps them to understand the intimidating world of money and finance by breaking it down to understandable concepts. In addition, the program allows students to develop important habits around budgeting and savings, personal credit and bank accounts,” says Ellen.

Looking Toward the Future

When it comes to the importance of financial literacy for students going forward, Ellen notes that it is essential to understand that “the financial world will continue to evolve, [especially] with concepts such as cryptocurrency and ESG investing.” But of course, the same mainstays will continue to apply. “Students still need to stick with the basics of understanding their paycheck, maintaining a budget and saving for the future,” she says.

Through her experience as a classroom teacher and overall supporter of SecureFutures, Ellen continues to be amazed by its far-reaching impact.

“It is most impressive that SecureFutures has provided financial education to nearly 100,000 students,” says Ellen. “I am so grateful to the classroom volunteers, staff and donors who have made this possible.”

Ellen thanks both Brenda Campbell, SecureFutures president and CEO, and Lloyd Levin, SecureFutures founder, for their years of service.

“Brenda is a most impressive leader and champion for the organization and the teens it serves. Thank you to Lloyd Levin for his inspiration.”

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On our 15th anniversary, we recognize all of our volunteers who’ve helped grow our organization to what it is today. If you, someone you know, or your company is interested in volunteering with SecureFutures, you can fill out a volunteer application here or contact us for more information.