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Extension's finance education for Latino immigrants spotlighted at national meeting

By Antonio Alba Meraz, Extension educator in family resiliency

Last fall, four Extension educators in family resiliency, including myself, presented a special series of workshops and one-to-one consultations on personal finance to Mexican and other Latino immigrants living in rural Minnesota.

The series, which emphasized building credit, budgeting, and banking, was based on the Ventanilla de Asesoria Financiera (Financial Empowerment Window) model. The workshops and consultations were made possible through a grant from the Consulate of Mexico in St. Paul.

As a result, Monica Cruz of the Consulate of Mexico in St. Paul and I were invited to talk about our finance education series at the National Meeting of Financial Empowerment Windows. The meeting, also called the National Ventanilla Convening, was held Dec. 18-19, 2017 in Los Angeles.

At the meeting, Monica and I presented an overview of the special finance education series, which included 20 workshops and 16 one-to-one consultations. These services were delivered to 257 participants in 17 counties between September and December 2017.

Our main goal in offering the series was to empower participants to achieve financial stability and protect their assets. We also designed the series to help integrate people of Mexican and other Latino ancestries into the rural communities where they live. Educators provided the workshops and consultations in Spanish.

Attendees at the National Ventanilla Convening included representatives of Mexican consulates across the United States. Corporations and non-profit organizations (like Extension) partnering with consulates to adapt the Ventanilla de Asesoria Financiera Model also attended. The meeting was held at the California Community Foundation’s Joan Palevsky Center for the Future of Los Angeles.

As part of a panel, Monica and I told 107 meeting attendees about:
  • Minnesota demographics and the audiences we work with.
  • How we adapted the Ventanilla de Asesoria Financiera Model for the special series of workshops and consultations in 2017. 
  • How we strived to adapt a model that met the expectations of the Consulate of Mexico in Saint Paul and other community partners, University of Minnesota Extension, and workshop participants.
I also strived to increase awareness of the availability of Extension resources in all 50 states, including resources to form partnerships like ours with the Consulate of Mexico in Saint Paul. After the presentation, several meeting participants asked me about accessing Extension resources, and I was able to answer questions and make connections with people from Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and Texas.

It was an honor to represent Extension at the meeting and to highlight the work we’re doing to educate and empower Latino immigrants in rural Minnesota to take charge of their personal finances.
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