You are with me today

FacebookLinkedInTwitterby Brenda Campbell, President and CEO, SecureFutures

Today is a special day. I am receiving an award today. But it’s really more accurate to say WE are receiving an award. I share this with tens of thousands of students, volunteers, educators and supporters.

The award is the 2017 Governor’s Financial Literacy Award. Reflecting on my past 11-plus years with SecureFutures, I’m humbled by this recognition. As I thought about receiving this award – along with 17 other worthy financial literacy leaders and organizations (more on other winners below) – two students in particular came to mind.

First, from our early years as Make A Difference – Wisconsin, in a classroom at a school that closed a few years ago. Truth be told, it wasn’t the easiest class, with the chatter and distractions. It wasn’t always clear to me that I was getting through to all of the students. Then, as happens so often, one student shattered my perception about what was going on in that classroom.

“Ms. Campbell, do you know what you’re doing right now?,” said the young man, among the ruckus and partway through my lesson on credit.

Hmmm … was this a set-up? No matter, I thought, I’ll go along.

“What am I doing, Donrico?,” I asked warily.

“You’re making me rich. Everything you’re teaching me is going to make me rich one day.”

Wow! In his own words, this young man reminded me exactly what our organization is all about – empowering teens to make sound financial decisions. And my response… “Donrico, you are making me rich.”

More recently, another student totally blindsided me during one of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s “On the Table” events. Like many of you, I participated in one of these inspiring “community conversations” happening all around the city (you can read about the jaw-dropping student testimonials shared at the event I hosted in this blog).

At one of the table conversations, a very positive high school senior named Robert joined our table and was soon the focus of questions from the adults.

Robert, a student at Hmong American Peace Academy, was asked by one of the adults at the table “If you could have all the resources and all the people needed to accomplish something to improve Milwaukee and our region, what would you undertake?”

Robert’s response blew me away. “There is a program at my school called Money Coach …,” he started, before going on to explain how he has started budgeting, planning for college and sharing information with friends and family. He went on to say “If I had all the resources I needed, I would make sure that every student in Milwaukee was able to participate in Money Coach.”

He had no idea that Money Coach is run by my organization and team. But here he was, calling it the most important thing he’d share with his peers. Of course, I spilled the beans – I may have given him a hug, which, if you know me, should be no surprise – and have been happy to hear more from Robert as he’s gone on to successfully complete Money Coach. But what a surprise!

Those two students will be with me today, two of the more than 68,000 teens we’ve worked with since 2006. Add on top of that hundreds of volunteers, supporters, educators and advocates and I know I won’t be alone at our state capitol, receiving this award from Gov. Scott Walker and the Governor’s Council on Financial Literacy. If you believe in student financial empowerment, you’ll be with me at the awards event on February 14th. And, hopefully, you’ll be by my side as we continue the good fight toward stronger financial futures for all teens.

I’m also privileged to be joined by a few other award winners closely associated with SecureFutures. Joe Schlidt will also receive an individual Governor’s Financial Literacy Award. Joe is our former board president and current advisory council member, a tireless volunteer and the author of his own financial education book. He is also the primary architect of our Investment Conference, a financial ideas event that has raised more than $1.25 million toward our programs and resources since it began nine years ago. Joe has positively impacted students in our programs in more ways than I can adequately describe. But thank you, Joe, and congratulations.

Also sharing the stage at this event are two organizations that have made financial education a keystone of their community outreach. Educator’s Credit Union and WaterStone Bank continue to be marvelous supporters and sources of volunteers for both of our programs. Congratulations to Educator’s and WaterStone, as well as all the other winners who are with us in this vital movement.