As soon as the question was asked – any question – Nikyle Walker’s hand shot up, signaling she had the answer.
A high school sophomore, Walker already has experience in the workplace thanks to an after-school job with a local retailer. This week she is participating for the first time in the Girls in Business Roundtable to expand her knowledge and build on her future.
“When I first started working, I had no idea about a checking account or a debit card,” said Walker, a student at Huffman High in Birmingham, Ala. “I learned the hard way at first, when I overspent what I had. Now I know how to manage and budget my money. Now I have a plan and it is working.”
Sponsored by the University of Alabama in Birmingham’s Minority Business and Training Program, the Girls in Business Roundtable is a week-long mentoring program for female students from across the metropolitan area. April is Celebrate Diversity Month and National Financial Literacy Month.
Regions Bank, based in Birmingham, led an all-day Tuesday session focusing on vision planning, banking basics and a roundtable discussion with female Regions executives who explained how they got into the business world.
Floresha Boyd, a Regions at Work Coordinator, taught a class on banking and business basics for the students, teaching them budgeting, tracking spending, establishing credit and managing checking and savings accounts.
The first rule of savings, according to Boyd: “You save to pay yourself first.” Then she taught the students about prioritizing their spending, a lesson that instantly resonated with Nikyle Walker.
“Just like she was saying, I’ve learned to put my needs before my wants,” Walker said. “And that’s how I save my money.”
Program Director Yvonne Lowery-Kennedy organizes monthly luncheons between local business women, who are then charged with finding students to participate. Close to two dozen students, ranging in age from 13 to 17, are taking part this week while on spring break from school.
“In one session, we teach them all aspects of running their own business,” Lowery-Kennedy said. “We teach them how to dress for business. We teach them etiquette: how to eat at meals and how to act in an interview.
“Working with Regions this year has been a perfect fit. This way, we can have leaders from Regions teach them about finances but also tell them what banks look for in terms of customers and businesses.”
Throughout Boyd’s session on banking and business basics, students peppered her with questions and provided answers as she quizzed them about money management. The students spent part of the day creating vision boards that showed where they hoped to go professionally and how they planned to get there. During the panel discussion, the students again engaged the Regions associates with questions about the world of business and finance.
“I hope the students take away the importance of managing finances,” said Dawn McGlothan, the Regions Bank Day Coordinator. “These ladies are aspiring entrepreneurs. They were so engaged and, to me, that is so encouraging. Based on the number of questions they asked, it’s clear they are interested in understanding and knowing more about finance.”