Just a few months ago, United Way for Greater Austin announced the launch of a new initiative within our Financial Stability work called CommunityTHRIVE. CommunityTHRIVE provides financial education classes, coaching and community resources in partnership with the City of Austin Neighborhood Centers and Goodwill.
Paola Silvestre-Leveck is Goodwill’s new financial literacy trainer for the CommunityTHRIVE program at the Rosewood-Zaragosa Neighborhood Center. Thanks to Paola and continued collaboration between UWATX and Goodwill, we are excited to now be able to offer these important classes to Spanish speakers in addition to the already existing English classes.
Paola earned her Business Administration degree and previously worked in investment for several years. Before her time at Goodwill, she worked as a legal assistant and business plan consultant for an immigration law firm in Austin.
She has worked at Goodwill for three months and has already taught roughly 40 financial classes. Each week at various Goodwill locations, she teaches eight classes and in addition, she works with UWATX to provide three classes for the CommunityTHRIVE program and two for the City of Austin.
“People usually have a lot of misconceptions regarding credit reports and credit scores, so majority of the questions surround those two topics,” Paola said. “The challenges are to not only convey financial information, but ensure that the topics are not confusing and that the client does not feel bored throughout the training.”
The CommunityTHRIVE classes cover budgeting, savings, credit and financial recovery. In addition, Paola created specific modules that fulfill specific client needs. Those courses include how to tackle debt, money habitudes and how to buy a car.
“I enjoy when I see that there is trust being built with the clients and they are able to share their own stories,” Paola said. “It is also rewarding to me when a client requests one-on-one sessions. This not only shows me they trust me, but they are willing to expand their knowledge.”
After each financial class, participants are offered a food pantry certificate from the Central Texas Food Bank that awards the holder twice the amount of food they would normally receive at the chosen location. Participants who complete a class and a financial coaching session also receive a $25 gift card.
Most importantly, the client receives the financial knowledge that will empower them to ideally improve their financial situation. The courses are free in order to help those who normally wouldn’t have access to this programming.
“I think free classes are extremely important,” Paola said. “Most people are not in a position to use their money to pay for these classes because of the financial constraints they are already facing. These classes are an opportunity to gain financial knowledge and could ultimately help clients change their lives.”