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What a difference 10 years makes. Make A Difference – Wisconsin continued our celebration of 10 years in financial education and empowerment on Tuesday, Aug. 23 with a “V.I.P. Appreciation Reception” at The Marcus Center.

Continuing their legacy of comprehensive support, Associated Bank generously hosted the reception of nearly 200 people. The annual Appreciation Reception serves as a “thank you” to supporters and a wider reminder of our mission led by members of our Advisory Council.

Leading the event, as always, were stories from students. Four recent Money Coach students shared sometimes funny and always from-the-heart takes on the impact of positive financial guidance in their lives (including Maano, at left, with the selfie stick and volunteers Charlie Evans and Joe Frederick.)

Dana was in Money Coach last year through Washington H.S. of Information Technology and said her volunteer coaches, Ranell Washington and Chinel Plunkett helped her “become financially literate and understand the differences between my needs and my wants.”

“Before Money Coach, I was working at the airport and as soon as I’d get my check, I’d go to the mall and just swipe, swipe, swipe with my card. Everything I was buying was adding up,” she said.

Now, Dana said he lessons she learned in Money Coach are fundamental to her everyday life as she lives on her own and works full-time at a daycare while earning her degree in early childhood education.

“In adulthood, now, I see how that money adds up and could go to something more valuable,” she said, later adding, “I use the budgeting and tracking in Money Coach every day – with how much income I have, my monthly expenses, savings – and I can’t believe how useful this has all been for me.”

Another student, Anaeli, expressed her gratitude for volunteer Maryanne Zawlocki, who has kept up her mentoring influence even months after the completion of the program. Anaeli, the 2015-2016 class president at Carmen H.S. South, is presently working in retail as she begins courses at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

The need for financial education in Wisconsin high schools is as relevant as ever, said John Utz, Milwaukee market president and head of corporate banking for Associated Bank. Utz (pictured at right) noted the ripple effect through local communities from partnering on a “shared mission of providing education and resources that empower teens to make sound financial decisions.”

Howard Schnoll, Advisory Council member and inaugural supporter of Make A Difference, shared his perspective on the importance of providing financial education. Schnoll grew up in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood, which experienced an overflow of public turmoil recently, and he pointed to the students who participate in programs like ours as a force for positive change as the community moves forward.

In a surprise turn, our founder, Lloyd Levin, took the stage to recognize Brenda Campbell, organization president and CEO since the start in 2006. Along with personal gifts, Lloyd and other longtime supporters established a financial education student scholarship in Brenda’s name.

Make A Difference – Wisconsin will share stories, events and outcomes from our more than 54,000 students throughout this year to highlight the impact of 10 years in teen financial empowerment. To join our financial education movement as a volunteer, education partner or supporter, click on the menu above.