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Nusenda Foundation Announces Latest Financial Education Innovator Awardee

Jul 12, 2021

Barbara Lopez from Encuentro

The Nusenda Foundation announced today that Barbara Lopez has been named Nusenda Foundation’s newest Financial Education Innovator. Lopez is a small business and financial literacy teacher with Encuentro New Mexico, a Latino immigrant community center in the heart of Albuquerque.

“Since 2018, Nusenda Foundation has showcased New Mexicans who aim to improve economic outcomes in their communities with innovative ideas to advance financial well-being,” said Nusenda’s Vice President of Community Engagement, Sara Keller. “Barbara works with immigrant entrepreneurs to provide Spanish-language financial literacy and comprehensive business coaching. I’m so impressed by all she does to strengthen immigrant families and to foster self-sufficient communities across New Mexico.”

Strong financial education has been shown to positively affect the economic well-being of individuals and their families. It predicts future healthy behaviors around savings, credit card usage, spending, and risk. This is especially important in New Mexico. Prosperity Now, a national public policy organization, ranked the state 50th in income poverty and 49th in the number of households who don’t use traditional financial institutions. Nusenda Foundation recognizes Financial Education Innovators who are working to reverse these trends.

“All my students are immigrants, and many sell items to provide income for their families — food like tamales or pastries. Others are electricians or plumbers,” Lopez said. “There’s a big range of where people are at in terms of education level and knowledge of technology.”

“The classes help them understand how to run a business in the U.S. compared to where they came from. They learn why it’s important to register their business, how to file as a Limited Liability

Corporation, how to file taxes, and how to follow codes and regulations. Then, we work with them to ensure their financial health into the future by building savings, getting life insurance policies and retirement plans, and estate building through homeownership.”

Lopez said many of her students, who work in non-essential businesses like retail, restaurants, hotels, nail salons, and other beauty services, were disproportionally affected by the coronavirus; additionally, many did not receive stimulus checks.

“Imagine being an immigrant without a framework of support. Many in my classes saw other people in the same situation, and that helped to build a community that could support one another,” Lopez said. “As their business plans developed and their businesses started to grow, they began referring clients to one another — some even decided to go into business together and set up a daycare center.”

Another challenge working with immigrants is the lack of technology. Lopez said that many of her students don’t have internet access at home and were trying to do classwork on mobile phones. Financial support from Nusenda will help students receive Chromebooks to run their businesses better.

“Trying to open a Google spreadsheet or to view a class slide on a phone is next to impossible, and for many, getting a laptop is a low-priority expense,” Lopez said. “We set our students up with Chromebooks and utilize the Google suite to set up their businesses and keep track of their finances; they also learn new tools and skills for success.”

Nusenda is currently seeking nominations statewide for additional Financial Education Innovators. Candidates can come from businesses, community organizations, nonprofits, education, government sectors, or other backgrounds. The nomination process is simple — visit and click on the Nominate an Innovator button at the top of the home page. Four recipients will be selected annually; each will receive $5,000 in funding from Nusenda to help launch or build out their initiatives.

Previous Financial Education Innovator awardees include:

  • Andrea Mattern, former math teacher at Albuquerque’s Valley High School and a former member of the Federal Reserve Bank Educational Council. She was selected for her innovative classroom strategies and dedication to helping students become money smart.
  • Alex Luce of Mandy’s Farm Vocational Access and Meaningful Opportunities for Success (VAMOS) program, a pioneering effort to help individuals with disabilities and their families to become financially secure.
  • Julian Griego, former Lead Instructor and Chef de Cuisine for the Street Food Institute, which uses the culture and allure of food and the culinary arts to create jobs, develop local business opportunities, and inspire entrepreneurial leaders of the future.
  • Henry Jake Foreman, MCRP, founder of the Indigenous youth collective and mentorship program Karuna Colectiva and Program Manager of New Mexico Community Capital’s Financial Literacy and Business Basics course, which uses Indigenous processes and methodologies to encourage personal development, innovation, and entrepreneurship to Native Americans.
  • Ona Porter, Prosperity Works founder and former CEO, who leveraged her network to support unbanked New Mexicans during the pandemic, ensuring that people could quickly access stimulus funds and other financial opportunities without exorbitant fees.
  • April Christensen, founder and program manager of the Kids Can youth entrepreneurship in Las Cruces, whose mission to help her dyslexic son embrace learning transformed into a program that teaches thousands of at-risk youth in southern New Mexico valuable skills in money management, business development, entrepreneurship, and financial responsibility.

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