With “Pomp and Circumstance” booming from the speakers, the processional begins. Smiling students clad in black caps and gowns walk down the aisle in single file, with an air of pride and confidence. The audience respectfully stands and there’s a feeling in the room that this is, indeed, a special day.
But this is no ordinary commencement exercise.
These soon-to-be-graduates are celebrating a major milestone, after years of struggles and challenges.
“It’s been a long journey and I’m grateful to be standing here today,” said Karenza Beasley. “I’m healthy and sober and I’m very proud of myself.”
In late August, Beasley and 28 classmates graduated from the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles’ Birmingham Day Reporting Center program that helps recently incarcerated individuals make a successful reentry back into their community.
“This is one of my favorite programs to teach. I enjoy serving as a bridge to help connect these participants to resources that could help better their lives. Keren Treme, financial wellness trainer for Regions Community Affairs
In collaboration with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, Regions Bank participates in this three-phase program that provides counseling, education training and workforce development to clients. The curriculum includes financial education instruction, which is led by Regions’ Community Affairs team.
“This is one of my favorite programs to teach,” said Keren Treme, financial wellness trainer for Regions Community Affairs. “I enjoy serving as a bridge to help connect these participants to resources that could help better their lives.”
Treme explained that she, with assistance from bankers and other Regions specialists, presents a five-part financial education curriculum to the group to make sure they have the tools and resources they need to make a fresh start.
The classes start with money basics, like setting goals and learning to budget, then expand to identify theft and the importance of protecting your personal information. They also cover credit, including how critical it is to have good credit and how to interpret a credit report. Finally, students learn about The Road to Homeownership, a class led by a Regions mortgage officer that provides insight about how to reach what is for many the ultimate financial success – owning your own home.
Feedback from the participants has been positive from the start, but Treme and the team noticed early on they had an additional opportunity.
“Many of the clients indicated they wanted to start their own business,” Treme said. “So, we incorporated a small-business finance class into the curriculum. We bring in a Regions Small Business solutions associate to provide information about starting and growing a business. It’s been a huge hit!”
Officer Leah Thompson, administrator of the Birmingham Day Reporting Center, speaks highly of Regions’ contributions to the program’s success.
“We’re grateful to community partners like Regions who provide instruction, guidance and sponsorship,” Thompson said. “With this strong curriculum as a jump start – combined with commitment and hard work from the clients and support from their family and friends – we’re working together to position these individuals for success, which is a win for our entire community.”
Regions participates in other reentry programs in the bank’s footprint, including working with the Abe Brown Ministries in Florida and the Georgia Department of Corrections.
The bank provides learning opportunities for other groups with unique needs, as well.
We’re grateful to community partners like Regions who provide instruction, guidance and sponsorship. Leah Thompson, administrator of the Birmingham Day Reporting Center
Earlier this year, Treme collaborated with Kathy Lovell, Disability Services and Outreach Manager at Regions Bank, on a financial wellness seminar presented at the National Federation of the Blind national convention in Birmingham. The gathering is the premier event for training, support and information for the blind community and hosts people from all over the world.
Treme presented two learning modules at the convention from the Regions Next Step financial wellness curriculum, Facing a Brighter Future: Building and Repairing Credit and Financial Strategies for the Future: Retirement Saving Plan. She and Lovell provided supplemental materials to attendees, which are published in braille.
“I’m so pleased Regions played a role in this important event for the blind community,” Lovell said. “Often, the blind and low vision communities become isolated and don’t have accessible tools and resources they need to make good financial decisions. Our curriculum and handouts were designed with accessibility as top of mind, and we got a lot of positive feedback from participants and organizers.”
Community Affairs is also expanding its financial wellness offerings in Spanish. During Financial Literacy Month in April, Treme collaborated with the Hispanic Coalition of Alabama, or ¡HICA!, which is a community development and advocacy organization in Birmingham that champions economic equality, civic engagement and social justice for Latino families.
Treme, a native Spanish speaker, along with Spanish-speaking bankers, presented a series of financial wellness seminars that included Building Financial Know-How, Smart Money Habits, The Importance of Saving and Wise Use of Credit.
That program was so successful that the following month, Treme was asked to come back to ¡HICA! and present learning modules for Small Business Month and then again in June for National Homeownership Month.
“We’ve made great progress with our efforts to enhance our various financial wellness offerings throughout our communities,” said Wendi Boyen, head of Community Advocacy and Financial Wellness at Regions. “Financial literacy improves lives, and everyone deserves an opportunity for success.”
Besides these programs, Regions also offers financial education to homeless veterans, students with disabilities, and many other groups with unique needs. To find out more about Regions Next Step Financial Wellness, visit Regions.com.