Shakila has always made volunteering a priority in her life. In high school, she volunteered with the Best Buddies program; in college, she participated in many community service projects. Now, as the Affiliate Membership Banking Specialist for Fifth Third Bank in Orlando, she donates her time to help children and families as a volunteer with Family Services of Metro Orlando.
After attending one of Family Services of Metro Orlando’s Community Connection Tours – a monthly meeting designed to provide the community with information about who we are and what we do – Shakila learned that children in foster care often lack critical life skills needed to live a successful and productive life. Youth in foster care are less likely to graduate high school, attend college and maintain a well-paying job. According to statistics (where is this from? Whose statistics?), only about 13 percent of children who age out of the foster care system ever complete a four-year college program. Additionally, young women in foster care are more likely to have children by the time they turn 21 than their female counterparts who spend no time in the child welfare system.
Shakila also learned that Florida is third in the nation for the number of child abuse and neglect reports, and that Central Florida ranks second in the number of those reports in Florida.
She knew she had to do something about these startling statistics.
Because of her strong financial background, Shakila decided to help Central Florida’s foster youth by offering free financial courses for them.
“We started doing after-hours classes for kids ages 13-18 about the basics of personal finance,” Shakila said.
Her students completed exercises during which they pretended to be employees at Publix or McDonalds, calculating their hours worked, versus their monthly expenses after each “paycheck.”
“At first, all the kids wanted cable. After getting their fake paychecks, they began to re-evaluate the importance of cable in their lives, and instead of spending that money on entertainment, they started to save it or use it for something more valuable,” Shakila said.“It was amazing – they naturally started to budget without really realizing what they were doing.”
But the impact of Shakila’s financial courses didn’t stop there.
At the beginning of the classes, only two of the teenagers who were attending had applied to some form of higher education. Throughout the year, as her students began to realize how hard it was to make ends meet while making minimum wage, they realized they wanted more for themselves. By the end of the year, almost all of her 32 students had applied to college. Several attended culinary school, others joined a technical college and some went on to community college-.
Helping teenagers navigate the financial challenges of young adulthood makes Shakila’s life a little fuller.
“There are so many good kids,” she said. “Everybody just wants a break, and it doesn’t help that their situation carries some social stigma. The least I can do is provide some financial knowledge and independence for them.”