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Interview with JA Volunteer Antonio Perez, Associated Bank Manager

This article is posted courtesy of our JA partners at Associated Bank.

How long have you been doing financial education volunteerism?

I can say that I’ve been doing it for many, many years—at least 30. I started with Junior Achievement after I came to the bank and had volunteered with other financial education organizations before that. It was just something that I have wanted to do and is a good fit for me.

 

What inspired you to get involved?
I am a firm believer in giving back. It is just the way I was raised and a part of who I am. It’s also a lot of fun and feels really good. I think that if you can impact just one person when you give a presentation—that they can walk away feeling like they’ve learned something—you know you did your job. I teach kids as young as five years old. Being in front of them and sharing my knowledge and expertise is the best feeling, and you can only experience it if you try it.
 
Why did you choose financial education over other types of volunteerism?
I felt comfortable with it because I work in banking. That level of confidence has grown over time and I now tailor my conversations based on individuals’ needs. I have been involved with other organizations in my community which has allowed me to see where the true needs are. When choosing an organization for yourself, you have to assess your skills as well as your community needs, and find the best fit. My motto is to get involved, stay involved and give back. When I look back, that is my single, proudest achievement.

What importance does financial education play in the community?
When I think back to my schooling, we never had someone speak to us about financial education. I feel that if I had been exposed to it at a younger age, it would have had a bigger impression on me. There are a lot of things we can teach the young and old alike that will benefit their lives. Financial education empowers people to make decisions that improve their financial wellbeing. I wish I had an opportunity like that when I was younger, and I am happy to bring that to others now.

Colleagues in the Chicago area are heavily involved in financial education. Can you tell us more about that initiative?
Every spring and fall, our region dedicates volunteers to teach financial education in the local schools. I am involved in securing and promoting the sessions and work a lot with the Junior Achievement representatives to do so. As a region, we have devoted many hours volunteering in the community because of our partnership with Junior Achievement.

How did your region first get involved with this initiative?
I had been known in the community as someone who is passionate about financial education. About three years ago, Junior Achievement approached us with their need for financial education volunteers. We were highly interested in collaborating with this organization, so my District Manager reached out to me to spearhead the effort and I ran with it. We are currently working with two of our local schools: Huff Elementary and Hillcrest, which is new to us this year.

What advice would you give colleagues wanting to volunteer in their community?
Get involved. We all have certain skills that others can benefit from. It would be a shame if we never shared those with others. Just thinking of the next generation, they could really learn and incorporate our experiences into what they do and become. That knowledge can then cascade to the next generation and so on. Giving back feels good because you can potentially impact the lives of so many people.

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