Feature volunteer: Armen Hadjinian seeks out students where personal finance is “so real”
Since 2011, Armen has been a Money Sense volunteer at Shared Journeys, a charter school in the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District that serves school-age parents. The Make A Difference – Wisconsin Money Sense program is delivered to teenagers across the state, at a range of educational settings. Armen relishes his annual visit to Shared Journeys because of blatant importance finances are playing in the lives of these young mothers and fathers.
“You’re basically in a living room and these parents have their kids with them. They’re crying, they’re eating. So, I better have my stuff together so that they have everything together,” he said, later adding, “Students will tell me years later this helped them get on their feet … it’s almost like someone taking a first aid class. If done right, it really has that potential to change lives.”
Lisa Colla, lead teacher at Shared Journeys, requests Armen year after year because of his empathetic way of sharing skills and resources that enable young parents to “build a solid foundation for their family.”
“Armen is an excellent role model for our students. He is engaging, kind, knowledgeable and incredibly nonjudgmental,” Colla said. “He is always willing to go the extra mile and answer any questions the students may have. He has the ability to make the students feel comfortable and they just love all his personal stories that he shares to hold their attention.”
As an instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College and Alverno College, and an author on entrepreneurship, Armen, 58, is no stranger to talks about money. He made it an emphasis with his own two children, now grown, which he took from his parents, who lived through the Great Depression in South Milwaukee. (Armen, at right in this picture with his son during a 2014 volunteer gathering for a Milwaukee Brewers game, joked about the frugality he’s taken from his parents: “I think I still have birthday money from when I was 6.”)
Armen has led dozens of Money Sense lessons at Shared Journeys and other high schools. The value of providing financial fundamentals struck Armen early on in a budgeting lesson at Connects Learning Center, an alternative high school with a strong vocational component for students. He saw a bridge between teens at Connects and those just a few years older in his college business courses.
“To these kids it is so real. They are going to get their first job and are they going to spend that first check on a motorcycle? When you’re in that classroom, you stand there and they know, this is life,” he said. “These are kids with coffee cups in front of them, so they’re young adults.”
At MATC, Armen has coincidentally taught two future Make A Difference volunteers, Jasmin Hernandez and Megan Blankschien. And he says all volunteers, educators and parents who share financial education are filling a gap for teens who need and want this information.
“I used to be a math teacher and we pushed calculus. But we don’t spend time on the stuff that could really help you or hurt you,” he said.
To find out more or sign-up as a volunteer, click here.