First Student Graduates from Be Smart About Money Program

Since early 2017, the United Way of the Ocoee Region has partnered with Habit for Humanity of Cleveland to offer a 10-session personal financial management curriculum that will teach families how to decrease debt, improve their credit scores, build up their savings and manage their money.

“I am thankful to The United Way of the Ocoee Region for partnering with Habitat of Cleveland through the Be Smart About Money Program,” said NaCole Massengill, Family Services Manager of Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland. “This is a wonderful opportunity for our community to continue to support the families in Cleveland/Bradley County with sound financial foundations, reducing financial stress and preparing them for financial freedom.”

Maureen Miller is the first student to complete the Be Smart About Money Program. She completed the financial course in March, and also completed her degree in Health Science in May. Through the Be Smart About Money program, she received financial education that is now helping her pay off student debt, invest, and save money for the future.

“I learned a lot from the program about how to save and manage my money. I was able to ask questions regarding these things. It was educational, informative, and very helpful,” said Miller. “I really appreciate this program, and I would encourage this class 100%. One thing you don’t hear much about is your finances and you never really get lessons on how to manage your money or how to save. There’s always better ways to save and invest, and this course was really beneficial to me. I have kids, and I want to be able to teach them the same things too. I want to teach them how to have financial stability in their lives as well.”

The United Way of the Ocoee Region is a community-based organization that leads efforts in identifying community needs, facilitating collaboration, and maximizing resources to positively impact the community and surrounding areas. In 2016, they provided a grant that allows the Be Smart About Money course to operate.

“Our mission at United Way is to identify and meet needs within the community,” said Jaynese Waddell, Director of Community Impact of United Way of the Ocoee Region. “This program allows us to partner with Habitat for Humanity to meet a need around financial literacy and increase individual understanding of financial issues such as debt and budgeting the way few other programs do. This program is a really effective way to grow peoples understanding of financial literacy within our community.”                  

In order to qualify for the program, residents of Bradley County must fall into the 60% area median income or below, pay a $25 participant fee, and open a savings account with a partner bank. When students successfully complete the course they are able to earn matching funds up to $1,000 to pay off debt.

“To see one of our first participants enter the class in 2017 not knowing where the money for savings was going to come from or even how she would be able to save over $1,000 in a year from part time employment and being a full time student amazes me,” said NaCole Massengill.  “It is exciting to see someone achieve their goal and realize that it was in them all the time, they just needed some guidance, resources and to make the decision to change their financial path.  I couldn’t be happier for Maureen knowing that she has been able to pay down on her student debt and has a savings account that she will continue to grow for a bright financial future.”

Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland seeks to put God’s love into action by bringing people together to build and repair homes, communities and hope.