Volunteers speak: Anne Potkay finds her hidden voice
Five years ago, Anne Potkay probably wouldn’t have imagined herself standing in front of a group of high school students teaching financial literacy.
“The hardest thing is getting over your fear of talking in public!,” said Potkay, a volunteer since 2014. “But when the students are engaged in the lesson, it’s so gratifying. You know you’re making a difference, because this is information they’ll get to use for the rest of their lives.”
When she first heard about the opportunity to volunteer for SecureFutures through her employer, like many people, she was nervous to speak in front of a classroom. The prospect of a room full of high school students was, in her words, “unnerving.” She decided to give her hidden “inner teacher” a voice, and soon SecureFutures became her primary nonprofit.
After training and her initial volunteer lessons, Potkay has gone on to log more than 20 hours of classroom time with students and has served six different schools. Most recently, she finished a mid-morning Money Sense program in Chase Prochnow‘s government class at HOPE Christian High School in Milwaukee, (pictured above), which she said she especially loved.
Professionally, she started on her career as an “accidental banker” when she found a job and stuck with it, back when US Bank was called First Wisconsin National Bank. (Congratulations, Anne: on March 1st of this year, she’ll be celebrating her 40th anniversary with the company!) Banking was a natural fit for her, thanks to her mom.
When Potkay was just eleven or twelve years old, she would sit at her kitchen table as her mom paid bills and balanced the checkbook. This is likely the origin of Anne’s “inner teacher.” As she got older, she realized what she had taken for “common knowledge” wasn’t so common: her peers weren’t as knowledgeable about overspending, paying off loans, and establishing credit as she was.
When she discovered that not everyone has been fortunate enough to grow up with a parent who took the time to explain financial responsibility, Potkay realized she had the potential to serve her community in a much-needed way. Potkay always had a voice inside her willing to teach, she just had to give it a try.
“It’s the most immediate satisfaction you can get from volunteering,” Anne said. She can “really see the light-bulbs going off” over the heads of the students as she delivers the lessons.
Potkay is especially passionate about the credit activities and lessons in Money Sense, where she sees and uptick in students nodding heads, taking notes and asking questions. (Research shows that, nationally, 11% of teenagers already own a credit card, and over 50% of college freshman acquire their first credit card at 19 years old.)
“One student asked me if using a credit card was a good thing or a bad thing, and I had to answer ‘yes!’… It’s a good thing if you’re responsible and know how to build a credit score, but it can be a bad thing if you don’t know how to avoid trouble.”
If you’re like Anne Potkay and looking for volunteering opportunities that change teens’ lives, click here to find out more.