Compass first met Fadima Conde when her daughter, Fatoumata, was a fifth grader at KIPP Academy in Lynn, Massachusetts. The year was 2006, and Compass had recently launched a partnership with Fatoumata’s school to provide families with a financial coaching and savings program to help them achieve their goals, including saving for their children’s college education. Thanks to her own drive and the school’s relentless focus on college access and success, Fatoumata knew that she wanted college to be part of her future. And even at such a young age, she understood that college would be expensive and that in order to achieve her dream, her family would need to help pay for it. A letter to families from the school’s principal convinced Fatoumata that the Compass program was the way for her family to do just that.
“My mom was hesitant,” Fatoumata recalled. “She finished high school in her native Guinea, and she couldn’t go to college. She always encouraged me in school, but she didn’t understand how to save so that I could go to college.”
Her mother overcame her hesitation and enrolled the family in the program. In Compass’s financial education workshops and one-to-one financial coaching sessions, Fadima identified ways that she could put aside some money each month to save for her children’s education – both for Fatoumata and her younger son, Sekou. Despite a modest income, Fadima began to put $100 each month into a matched college savings account, and she stuck with it. She also worked with her coach to rebuild her credit and repay her debt.
A couple years after beginning the program, Fadima shared a short reflection on her experience at a Compass event. “My daughter studies hard and wants to go to university,” said Fadima. “I told her that I don’t have a lot of money but that I would do what I could to help her achieve her dream.”
Compass programs draw on research demonstrating the impact of savings and asset building on children and families. When we are working with parents, we are also having an impact on their children. For example, research has demonstrated that when a parent establishes a college savings account for a child, that child is more likely to attend and complete school.
For Fatoumata, watching her mother save made her feel supported and encouraged. “I knew it was difficult for her to put away money. I knew it was a strain on her,” Fatoumata remembers. “But I also knew she wanted me to succeed in life.”
At Penn, Fatoumata studies science and is planning for medical school. She is also responsible for managing the finances of two health-focused student organizations on campus and exploring the idea of a future in business.
“Based on my experience, Compass gives you hope for the future,” Fatoumata reflected recently. “Despite my mom’s hardships and giving up money that could be used in other areas of her life, she wanted to do this and she felt like it would pay off. Compass helped her to see that by saving for my brother and me she wasn’t taking away money from herself, she was preparing her family for the future.”
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