Speaking up about cents

Blanquita Rebolone de Colley shows learners that when it comes to money, they have a voice.

When Blanquita Rebolone de Colley was working as a funding advisor in the Office of the Registrar at Bow Valley College, she’d assess whether applicants were eligible for financial aid. Although she couldn’t examine their finances in much depth, she would sense when a prospective learner was facing issues. “I was not able to help them, because of the nature of the work that I was doing,” she says. 

But since early 2017, Blanquita has been able to help learners with their finances, when she was given the chance to work as financial empowerment coach at the ATB Centre for Financial Empowerment

The ATB Centre for Financial Empowerment is a financial service offered to Bow Valley College learners. It traces its origins to 2012, when Bow Valley College joined Financial Empowerment, a citywide initiative that addresses the root causes of poverty (other partners include United Way of Calgary and Area, the City of Calgary, the Government of Alberta, and Momentum). Through that initiative, Bow Valley College secured a partnership with ATB, which allowed us to hire a full-time person dedicated to financial literacy and empowerment, says Stacie Baker, manager, learner financial empowerment at Bow Valley College. 

Blanquita became that person. In her role, she manages a number of financial empowerment initiatives. She offers learners one-on-one financial coaching, runs the Matched Savings Bursary program — where participants receive a bursary to spend on education related-expenses after they’ve saved $50 a month for four months — and guest speaks in classes on various financial management topics. 

She also chairs the Financial Coaching course in the School of Continuing Learning, which prepares frontline human services workers to teach financial literacy to low-income Calgarians. Once participants have completed the course, Blanquita invites them to the community of practice, a networking group where they get to hear from guest speakers and discuss solutions to scenarios they’ve encountered in their work. 

When she coaches learners, Blanquita says that one of the challenges she has noticed is establishing trust. “It’s very intimidating to walk into an office and talk to a total stranger about money,” she says. “No one wants to talk about money.” 

She explains that part of what she does through her initiatives is teach learners that they have a voice. They can speak up for themselves. They can advocate for themselves. “It's very intimidating to walk into a bank, for example. We need to learn to work with banks, here are some of the ways that you can have a voice when you go into a bank,” Blanquita says. 

Her other approach? She is open about her own finances. “For me, it's very important to talk about money. I don't want people to feel uncomfortable. I'm an open book when it comes to finances. And I think our students appreciate that.”

Take the first step to talking about your finances. Book an appointment with Blanquita. 

And throughout November, Financial Literacy Month, the ATB Centre for Financial Empowerment is hosting many events on financial wellness. To see what we’ve got scheduled, check out our events page

Posted on November 9, 2018

Story by Julie-Anne, photos by Chris Bolin

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