Before the pandemic, there were a dozen of us all seated in a circular arrangement within one of the compact meeting rooms at Highland. The topic of the day was about cutting extraneous spending from our budgets. There was much talk on various alternatives for clothing, healthcare, and cellular services in a very relaxed fashion. Despite the very casual nature of our discussion, the ebb and flow of conversation remained highly productive as we opened our minds to new information and to each other.
This was the prime example of my experience being in the Peer Money Mentors Program. Dialogue was the heart of it all. Whether it was in that cubical like room or the wide hallways of the campus, we did lots of talking. We talked to each other and other students about personal finance and our personal lives. These interactions also included taking part in workshops and presentations. Prior to joining the program, I found it difficult to honestly express myself. To some degree, I still find it difficult to do so, but I think all the conversations we had at our meetings and events changed a little something in me.
When the lockdowns started and we converted to an online format, the meetings really became the highlight of my week. School online is not the most ideal experience. Going to our weekly Friday meetings where we would talk about saving, budgeting, and retirement marked the end of classes for me. But it also was a time where we would be able to get together to talk and listen (moreso listen for me) about what was going on with our lives. During a pandemic where social gatherings were limited, I think having that alloted period was a great comfort and I found the ideas and experiences exchanged meaningful.
Overall, the Peer Money Mentor Program for me was a very gratifying experience, because I was able to learn about personal finance as well as interact with all types of people. If I’m taking anything away, it’s not just the knowledge about the pitfalls of consumer culture, but the opening of my eyes to new experiences and taking a more active role in my life.