In North Carolina, youth development centers (YDCs) provide mentoring, education and therapeutic treatment for youth sentenced for offenses in the Juvenile Justice section. Juveniles who commit an offense between their 10th and 16th birthday may be committed to a YDC, which is the most restrictive and intensive dispositional option available to North Carolina’s juvenile courts. Youth are committed for an indefinite period of at least six months, typically ending by their 18th birthday, but sometimes extending until the 21st birthday for particularly violent offenses. These centers hope to prepare these young people for a fresh start when they re-enter their communities.
As a LiSA Initiative Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI), I contribute financial education for these young people during their stay. In November, I spent my third year being part of the Financial Psychology Break Thru teaching session at Stonewall Youth Development Center. In three years, I have become attached to these young men, their experiences and their lives at the center. With my mentor, Maria Riofrio at my side, I have gained the confidence I needed to guide these young people through financial principles. My interactive teaching approach encourages students to learn and motivates them because they can relate to me as a person. I use my personal struggles to connect with them, sharing life experiences and stories instead of just financial theory.
With this challenging audience, I have realized how important this relationship is with students. As a CFEI, I must form a strong belief in my students and connect with them on a real, personal level to push them to reach their highest potential. They need to feel the LOVE and a true, caring connection that they may not have had outside of the facility due to their unstable environments. Partnership with teachers and counselors at the facility has also been vital to building relationships as I share financial literacy. The staff learned alongside students and shared their own valuable lessons to help students gain a better understanding.
Teaching at a facility such as this can be intense because there is always a risk of confrontation and emotions can run high. There are, however, many protocols in place to prevent major disruptions – such as keeping groups small and implementing the safety measures of lockdown doors, etc. I value teaching at SYDC over a traditional school, however, because these young men’s need for help, love and care is so apparent.
I returned on Thanksgiving Day with ping pong paddles and balls in hand so I could have some lighthearted time with the students that didn’t involve financial topics. I am so grateful that the LiSA Initiative has given me the chance to bring financial education to communities that are most in need.
To learn more about the LiSA Initiative, visit www.lisainitiative.com. If you are a First Financial Security Associate and would like to become a Certified Financial Education Instructor like Polly Outhay, contact Maria Riofrio at email@example.com.
Already a CFEI and want to share your story? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your experiences.