Educator Spotlight: NFEC Applauds Camille Ko and Allie for Giving Homeless Youth a Financial Education

The National Financial Educators Council (NFEC) is proud to recognize Camille Ko, a high school student who has built a successful financial education program for homeless youth. With the aid of Allie, her teen shelter assistant, Camille presented the NFEC’s teen curriculum last summer to a group of youth at American Family Housing, a nonprofit shelter serving the Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino County homeless.


Camille’s Story

In June 2012 the NFEC received the following email from Camille Ko, at the time a 17-year-old High School student:

“Hi, I’m a high school student that is starting a teen financial literacy study group at a local homeless shelter. I want the program to be interesting and fun for everyone so that my fellow teens will want to show up and stick with it. So far I have some presentation material. But I really need some tips on how to make this whole thing interesting and engaging. I don’t have much of a budget to work with in order to purchase curriculum but would really appreciate any suggestions or help. Thank you.”

The NFEC, a leading provider of financial education resources, was delighted to help Camille realize her vision. She wanted to assist teens of homeless families learn financial lessons to break the cycles of homelessness and debt. To support Camille’s efforts, the NFEC gave her its Certified Financial Educator Instructor training so she could earn her financial literacy certification.  This was donated to her as part of the organization’s social enterprise model. Through the Financial EduNation Campaign, the NFEC also was able to donate its entire teen curriculum package to Camille’s program upon her graduation from the Certification course.

For three weeks in advance, Camille practiced and honed her presentation skills so she would feel comfortable teaching personal finance in front of class.  She studied and organized the NFEC materials into the best presentable format for her peers. After a one-on-one strategic planning meeting with NFEC CEO Vince Shorb, she was ready to reach out to homeless teens.  “A peer financial educator can connect with the audience and have a deeper understanding of some of the issues they may be facing,” states Cecil Abad of the NFEC.


Program Overview

The teens met every Monday for seven weeks in the shelter’s upper-level conference room. There they learned and discussed financial topics, ranging from goal-setting and budgeting to investment and entrepreneurship.

In a typical class, Camille would explain the day’s coursework, and then students would go over the outlines and sample financial forms, often watching fun money-management videos to supplement the instruction. Occasionally class would end with a game or bonding activity between the shelter teens. A total of 13 youth attended the class. Although some were unable to attend regularly due to family concerns, school, or transportation issues, every class meeting contained at least six teens. Most participants in the program were 13 and 14 years old, with a few aged 15 or 16.


Successful Results

Thanks Camille’s dedication, the program achieved a high level of success. The teens helped each other learn the material; while Camille taught the curriculum, others would pitch in to re-explain and help one another grasp the concepts. Participants starting with little or no experience in money management walked away with a strong financial foundation. Those who did have previous experience left the class with new and valuable skills.

Although each teen had different interests—for example, one 16-year-old was fascinated by car loans, while a 14-year-old wanted to learn about credit cards—they all built strong bonds while learning about money. Soon the teens began sharing not only the financial knowledge, but their interests and hopes for the future. Their newfound awareness combined with blossoming friendships gave these AFH teens a fresh sense of confidence, making their dreams of a better future seem closer to reality.

The NFEC applauds peer financial educators Camille and Allie for their devotion to improving the lives of their fellow students. This program represents a real and significant contribution to Southern California youth and to the wellbeing of the homeless community.


About American Family Housing

For every homeless person you see on the street, thousands more are never recognized—men, women, teens, and children who struggle every day just to survive. At American Family Housing, staff and volunteers strive to give homeless families what they so desperately need: the opportunity for a better life.

American Family Housing (aka AFH or Shelter for the Homeless) is a nonprofit organization that provides emergency, transitional, and permanent affordable housing to homeless and low-income individuals and families. In addition to housing aid, the shelter offers counseling and life skills training to equip its clients with the knowledge they need to improve their lives and become self-supporting members of society.

AFH was founded in 1985 when Founder and Executive Director Jim Miller began delivering food, blankets, and clothing to those in need. Since then it has grown to accommodate more than 330 housing units operating in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino counties.  For more than 27 years church groups, service groups, community organizations, and local, state, and federal governments have facilitated the annual expansion of AFH’s client programs and shelter properties, allowing the shelter to dedicate 90% of its funds for client services. Now on any given night AFH serves more than 1,000 people, providing safe refuge to sleep, food to eat, and hope for a better tomorrow.

In honor of Jim Miller’s dedication to helping those in need, AFH does and will continue to work towards accomplishing his ultimate goal: to give hope back to the homeless.

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