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"Opportunities Start Here" Program Helps New Mexico Families

July 30, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Twenty mothers and 23 high school students participated in a recent project called Opportunities Start Here, and last week the graduates celebrated with a pool party and open house in Albuquerque. The program offers financial education and matched savings for single, immigrant mothers and their college-bound children.

Zaile Ramirez is a graduate of Highland High School. In addition to learning about banks and credit unions, Ramirez learned about spending money. She now sees shopping trips to the mall through different eyes.

"All my friends, they spend it on clothes that they don't end up using. And I'm like, 'why are you going to spend on it?' And they're like, 'well, why not?' I try to teach them, 'you don't need that, you don't have to buy it.' And they sometimes listen to me. But, most of the time they don't."

Ramirez is registered to start at Eastern New Mexico University in the fall, where she will study social work and Spanish. She plans to use the money she saved and the money matched by the program to cover her room, board and textbooks.

Monica Cordova is a coach for Opportunities Start Here. She works with immigrant mothers and their children. Cordova says the parents and children understand each other better as they learn about money together. One of the examples the instructor uses is a burrito.

"Every morning, if you buy a burrito on your way in to work it costs $5. A burrito every morning for five days times 52 weeks, this is like $2,600 for a burrito every morning."

As the coach, Cordova says it is her role to help program participants see that there are other ways they can save money without having more income.

Tim McCorkle is the principal at Albuquerque High School. Three seniors at Albuquerque High took part in the program. McCorkle thinks being in the program motivated the students to work harder. It gives them hope for the future, he says.

"This program helps my kids that may not have the aspirations to go. It's a way for them to have hope to know that, 'hey, I can go to college.'"

Renee Blake/Beth Blakeman, Public News Service - NM