Pockets Change teaches financial skills to Visalia foster youth

A new organization is revolutionizing the way money is taught to children and one stop on their tour of change was Visalia.

Pockets Change is an organization dedicated to teaching youth about healthy money habits and financial planning. They recently came to Visalia’s College of the Sequoias and conducted a one -day workshop on the basics of finances to foster kids.

In the class, the teachers cover budgeting, banking, income, and more facets of money personalities. “Money is probably the very first encounter after becoming an adult,” said Pam Capalad, a Certified Financial Planner with the group. “It’s good to know your money personality and make sure it’s a match.”

Capalad works with educators to impart the wisdom she’s learned in her profession. She was hired early on by a camp that taught financial literacy. “It was something that completely opened my eyes to something I was completely unaware about. I couldn’t believe I didn’t learn this when I was 12,” said Capalad.

After her early experience with teaching kids about money, she moved from the Bay Area to New York City. She wanted to help educate more people about good money practices, but she felt unhappy with the system she worked for.

“I think a big part of it for me is that I worked in wealth management for 7 years and I learned that it is straight-up designed to take advantage of poor people and people of color,” said Capalad. “We throw out these huge numbers to scare people. The reason why I still teach youth is because I see adults with these situations.”

Capalad’s colleagues agreed with her sentiment. “Social justice is what led me to Pockets Change,” said Brian “Dyalekt” Kushner, a hip hop artist and finance educator. “One thing I feel gives me a unique identity is that I come from exactly where [the kids] come from,” he said.

Dyalekt moved from St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands to New York to pursue performing arts and legal studies. He turned wholly to rap and theater after seeing the law firm he worked for mistreating its clients. Dyalekt soon began teaching.

“I don’t believe that those who can’t, teach. I believe those who can, must teach,” said Dyalekt. “We want youth to be able to live the lives they intend to live.”

Angela Ferrero, another educator with Pockets Change, has a similar story to both her co-workers. “I got into education because that was my haven growing up,” said Ferrero.

Early in her childhood, she moved from Chicago to a Navajo reservation and grew up there. When she started her career, Ferrero began teaching both at a city school and at a school on the reservation. She was upset by the inequity at the reservation school.

“We weren’t really teaching life skills. The big thing I noticed was the huge difference,” said Ferrero. “This is 30 minutes apart. Why is it so different?”

Ferrero linked up with Capalad at the money camp they both worked at and decided to found Pockets Change. “Our big hope for Pockets Change is to see it as something that needs to be taught,” said Ferrero.

The organization came to COS because the college wants kids to have a strong sense of money management. In fact, Pockets Change teaches people from the age of 5 and 6 to their early 20s. The Youth Empowerment Strategies for Success (YESS) Program at COS asked the group to facilitate the workshop.

This specific class was given to current and former foster youth from Tulare and Kings counties. “We want to get it into kids’ minds early that these are daily living skills. This is stuff they need every day,” said Miriam Sallam.

The YESS program gives underprivileged youth resources they need and a chance to succeed. They work closely with the COS Foundation and the program provides a safe haven and a quiet space for students to do work.

“My dream is that our youth would be able to learn these skills and be successful,” said Sallam.

Pockets Change hopes to return to the Visalia area and continue educating kids about financial capabilities.

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