There were some months when Maria and Daryl barely had enough to pay the rent on the quadruplex where they lived with their three children.
Both worked hard to provide for their family yet never seemed to be able to make ends meet. Living paycheck to paycheck with no savings to fall back on, they viewed owning a car or house of their own as luxuries of some faraway, unattainable dream.
After struggling financially through Maria’s pregnancies, the couple was ready to make a positive change to their situation. They just weren’t sure how.
“When you’re in the position we were in, you’re frustrated,” Daryl said. “You don’t know where you’re going financially – you don’t know how to get out of that slump. You know you want to get out of it, you just don’t know how. You have so many questions, you just don’t know the right person to talk to or you don’t feel comfortable talking.”
When Maria heard about a financial coaching program for Head Start families at United Way supported SouthSide Early Childhood Center, she knew it could be her family’s opportunity to break that cycle. SouthSide’s family support programs, including the financial coaching program, are designed to equip parents with the confidence and leadership skills needed to thrive in all areas of their lives. Through the program, Maria and Daryl met with a volunteer financial coach who helped them set financial goals, manage their credit and learn to save for the future.
Since completing the program, Maria and Daryl have been able to purchase two vehicles and move into a larger home better suited for their young family.
“We strive to really build up leadership capabilities of parents,” said Krysta Grangeno, family partnership director at SouthSide. “We let them know, ‘you can act as a resource for others,’ and that builds up their confidence and activates their desire to do more and help people.”
Armed with their new skills and inspiration to give back, Maria and Daryl served as mentors in SouthSide’s ASSET Program for Head Start families, which provides financial education and matched savings for low-income, working families.
Having first-hand experience walking through financial instability, Maria and Daryl were able to offer real-life wisdom their peers could relate to.
“It’s always easier when you see somebody that looks like you,” Grangeno said. “It piques people’s interest to say, ‘Look at me, I’ve been through it too.’”
Since serving as ASSET mentors, Maria and Daryl have also taken on a variety of other volunteer roles at SouthSide. Maria now serves on SouthSide’s Parent Staff Leadership Committee and recently joined a statewide parent council group; Daryl is part of the Racial Equity Taskforce at SouthSide.
“I feel like it’s always rewarding when you can pass on knowledge to somebody else, when you can help someone improve themselves,” Daryl said.
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Emily Becherer is a proud native St. Louisan, writer and lover of stories in all their forms. Faced with a captivating question, she will research her way down a rabbit hole and emerge with words that educate and inspire. You can probably find her taking in a musical, bingeing through a new podcast series, exploring the trails at local parks or curating her extensive library of Spotify playlists.