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Local women Wi$e Up to financial literacy

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://www.navajohopiobserver.com/main.asp?SectionID=29&SubSectionID=41&Art icleID=6266 10/24/2007 12:10:00 PM Local women Wi$e Up to financial literacy
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 25, 2007

      10/24/2007 12:10:00 PM

      Local women Wi$e Up to financial literacy

      Rebecca Schubert
      The Observer

      FLAGSTAFF-In celebration of the 13 women who reached their next plateau of
      success by completing the Wi$e Up Financial Literacy Course, family and
      friends as well as Department of Labor Women's Bureau (DOLWB)
      administrators gathered Oct. 15 at the Coconino County Administration

      "This is a segment of 'empowering' Native American women!" Wi$e Up
      instructor Holly Figueroa (Hopi) said. "Being able to give these women the
      tools and the confidence they need to be financially savvy is awesome!
      These women will be able to make knowledgeable financial decisions that
      affect not only themselves, but their families or their future families.
      For example, living and working in Flagstaff, saving for college, buying a
      car or truck or even buying a home. Financial literacy is an important part
      of being able to balance a Native American life and an urban life or life
      in general."

      "Having the support of our community leaders has been key in our efforts.
      It is great to report positive activity that Native Americans are
      participating in in Flagstaff.

      It is my hope that this segment will spark the interest of more Native

      women in Flagstaff and around the state of Arizona to participate in

      Wi$e Up sessions. Our Flagstaff Native women participants are living
      testament of what Wi$e Up is about," Figueroa said.

      This second series of the Wi$e Up Financial Literacy Program was held
      through September and based upon a financial literacy curriculum developed
      by the DOLWB including eight separate areas of focus.

      Figueroa took this lengthy, comprehensive handbook and contoured it to fit
      her participants' needs. Each worksheet is adorned with photos of Native
      women and various images representing the lifeways of her Native students.

      "I tweaked it and put a Native spin on it. All the material was presented
      with a Native American theme, [for example] with the picture of Hopi
      Villages, to help them become more engaged. As fellow Native American
      women, we were all there as a group learning and sharing our lives. The
      discussions were informal, so I think this created more meaningful
      relationships. A lot of times the classes got really personal and we shared
      a lot of stories, which, I think, is a lot of times is the best way to
      learn." Figueroa said.

      Together the women shared their similarities and differences and designed a
      financial plan.

      "Many times we as Native women have to balance a traditional lifestyle with
      a city life. So, we talked about how to budget for ceremonies through the
      year," said Figueroa. "During our budgeting activities I'd say, 'when our
      people used to budget without the use of money, what did they do? How did
      they budget corn? How many people did they need to feed?'"

      "'And so, if you are planning a ceremony or going to a powwow, what items
      or supplies need to be purchased or will there be entry fees?' Everything
      is geared towards women and what we as Native women go through," Figueroa

      One of Figueroa's worksheets includes a Circle of Life exercise in which
      the seasons of the year are placed around a spiral and sun. The text reads:
      "List what your ancestors (elders) would harvest throughout the year. [In
      the winter to early spring, Northwest tribes harvested venison such as deer
      and elk. They stopped in the early spring, when the young animals were
      born, to protect the survival of the herd.]

      Did your people preserve/save any resources to be used year round? How did
      they budget throughout the year? Why? What types of goods did they trade?
      Were goods specifically put aside for the purpose of trading?"

      In addition to the workbook topics including: money basics, credit,
      savings, risk management, insurance and achieving financial security,
      Figueroa invited individuals from throughout the financial community to
      discuss their areas of expertise.

      "So, you're getting the benefit of professionals coming in and speaking to
      you for free," Figueroa said.

      Another benefit of the Financial Literacy for Native American Women Wi$e Up
      class is its location at the Sunnyside Neighborhood One Stop on Izabel
      Street in Flagstaff where children have a place to play and refreshments
      are provided.

      To accommodate even more women in the future, Figueroa is taking her class
      to tribal communities across the region.

      "We want to get it out there to as many tribal nations as possible," she

      Figueroa hopes to share her program in early 2008 with the Navajo Nation,
      Hopi Tribe, Yavapai Apache, Phoenix Indian Center and more.

      One of several successes

      Figueroa explained that each participant is a success story. One in
      particular is Kathleah Sonny (Diné) who graduated from the first session of
      Wi$e Up and was invited to attend the recent graduation ceremony. After
      completing the 2006 Wi$e Up course, Sonny decided to start her own jewelry

      "[This course] gave me the information that I needed to be able to go out
      and start by teaching me how to organize time, about financial spending and
      where my money was going. Money management and realizing how all my
      expenses added up was most important," Sonny said. "Then I knew, okay, this
      is what I have to save and, maybe, to someday invest."

      Sonny now supports herself fully through her own business working at the
      Native Americans for Community Action Overlook Program at the Oak Creek
      Vista. She said that through Wi$e Up, she learned about the multitude of
      resources available.

      "I learned about asking questions, asking for help. Right now it's learning
      and watching. Without this program I wouldn't have had the knowledge and
      tools to know how to organize my money and my time. It feels really good.
      Native American women are really strong, we just need encouragement to come
      out, not just to stay at home, but to be businesswomen. The main thing is
      that it's coming from other Native American women-that it's gonna be up to
      you to do it-to go to the classes, to do what it takes to be successful."

      Figueroa agreed. "Women are powerful in that we are the people that get
      tasked with taking care of the children, our brothers and sisters; we take
      care of our mothers, fathers and our aunts and uncles as they get to the
      end of their lives. We also are now the ones who are single moms,
      businesswomen and the handy-women. We have to take care of ourselves and
      our families. It is up to us as women to educate ourselves so that we can
      make the best decisions possible and also to help raise strong Native
      American communities," she said.

      "My father has always been my inspiration. I lost him a year ago this
      month. He always taught me to take the initiative! It is that initiative
      that he taught me about that drives me. He lived his later years at Hopi
      and he always talked with everyone. He never turned anyone away
      particularly non-Natives. He was that 'bridge.' He welcomed people and took
      the time to talk with them and share some of Hopi to take back home with
      them wherever that may have been. It is that legacy that I would like to
      carry on by being a 'bridge' for my fellow Native American women and
      Natives as a whole," Figueroa concluded.

      The recent Wi$e Up graduates include: Carla Chiquito, Irene Tsosie, Vanita
      Apodaca, Evelyn Yazzie, Roanna Jenkins, Gwen Cody, Deborah Patrick, Raylene
      Hood, Amber Patrick, Mary Lou Natoni, Helena Botone, Sadie Oxtoby and Faye

      The DOLWB Wi$e Up program is available online at

      Figueroa plans to offer the next session of Flagstaff Wi$e Up courses in
      early 2008. For more information about the local programs, call (928)
      522-7900 or toll free (877) 358-6714.
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