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Bilingual Financial Literacy Symposium

On Saturday, September 30, 2023, despite heavy rain in the morning, over 134 parents, community members, partners, and students came out to attend the Bilingual Financial Literacy Symposium at the Sports and Medical Sciences Academy in Hartford, CT.  

Guests were provided with continental breakfast, transportation and childcare for those that needed it, as well as translators.   Attendees who arrived early had the opportunity to connect with our 14+ vendors before introductions and opening remarks by Treasurer Carmen I. Sierra and Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez.

Treasurer Carmen I. Sierra and Superintendent Leslie Torres-RodriguezTreasurer Carmen I. Sierra and Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez

The goal of the Bilingual Financial Literacy Symposium is to empower families with financial expertise that will help them achieve long-sustaining wealth.

“The passing of SB-1165 (An Act Concerning Financial Literacy Instruction), a state program, signifies the importance of financial literacy in our community,” said Treasurer Carmen I. Sierra. “As City Treasurer, my responsibility is to work with community leaders to provide the necessary resources and networks to improve financial literacy skills among our high school students and our community as a whole.”

“Comprehensive financial literacy empowers our citizens” said Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez.  “Equitable access to financial skills dismantles systemic barriers.”

The panel discussion, “Your Money Matters, Setting a Strong Financial Foundation” was moderated by Patrina Dixon, Founder and CEO of It’$ My Money®️.  Ms. Dixon is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, Registered Financial Consultant and two-time #1 Best Selling Author.  The panel discussion featured Rashia Schand, wife, mother of four, Mortgage Loan Officer, Financial Educator, and author of Jumpstart Your Money Journey; Stephen Robert, CEO of Bedrock Credit America; Dr. Chaka Felder-McEntire, CEO of Higher Heights, and Pamela Hippolyte and Dante Galvez, Affordable Lending Loan Officers with Liberty Bank.  

Stephen Robert, Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, Treasurer Carmen I. Sierra, Pamela Hippolyte, 
Dr. Chaka Felder-McEntire, Patrina Dixon, Dante Galvez, and Rashia Schand

 Commissioner Joshua Gottfried and Treasurer Carmen I. Sierra

Treasurer Carmen I. Sierra thanked Joshua Gottfried, the City of Hartford pension fund Commissioner for his commitment and support of the Bilingual Financial Literacy Symposium.

 Linda Urbanec and Fanita Borges from Liberty Bank, Patrina Dixon, and Treasurer Carmen I. Sierra.

Financial Literacy is a huge problem in our country!

After an informative panel discussion with engagement from the audience, guests were split into smaller groups to attend one of the four morning workshops:  

Rashia Schand who focused on ‘Budgeting Basics,’ is a passionate advocate of financial literacy. She has dedicated personal time to teaching financial literacy across Connecticut and is the author of Jumpstart Your Money Journey, a financial literacy book series for children and young adults. She believes that the key to building wealth and/or coming out of financial hardship is not just in making more money, but in managing what you do have.  Her workshop empowered individuals to take control of their financial journey by learning how to create realistic and simple budgeting habits as a first step to getting their financial house in order.

Rashia Schand leading the ‘Budgeting Basics’ workshop

Stephen Robert, CEO of Bedrock Credit America, a non-profit dedicated to credit education, provided information on ‘Building Your Credit’ that allowed attendees to learn about how to get, build, and/or repair their credit.  He also focused on teaching attendees how not to fall victim to scams and discussed safe ways to get and improve their credit scores.

Stephen Robert leading the ‘Building Your Credit’ workshop

Dr. Chaka Felder-McEntire and her team, Vanessa Newman and Angelica Morales from Higher Heights shared specifics on how to apply for free Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  Navigating financial aid can be complex but Dr. Felder-McEntire and her team have simplified it.  Families were given valuable insights into the financial aid opportunities available to them, ensuring that the cost of higher education is within reach. 

They also provided information about scholarships and grants that can further support educational journeys.  No matter how educated a person is, every parent and high school students needs to understand how the FAFSA works. 

Vanessa Newman/Angelica Morales leading the ‘Understanding the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)’ workshop

Lastly, two Affordable Lending Loan Officers from Liberty Bank, Dante Galvez and Pam Hippolyte, helped attendees understand the process and steps to purchasing a home by covering topics like what it takes to be prequalified, programs available to purchase homes and programs to help with down payment assistance and closing costs.


Pamela Hippolyte/Dante Galvez leading the “Mortgage Prep/Home Ownership’ workshop

At the conclusion of the morning workshops, guests enjoyed lunch catered by George Garnes of Good Food Catering.

George Garnes and team at Good Food Catering and Treasurer Carmen I. Sierra

Guests took the opportunity during lunch to network and connect with the exhibitors listed below:


 Yolanda Rivera and Maritza Falcon, representatives from CT State Building Trades Training Institute and 
Treasurer Carmen I. Sierra
Rashia Schand, her daughter, and Treasurer Carmen I. Sierra
Dante Galvez, Fanita Borges, Pamela Hippolyte, Ivan Cruz, and Pam Days-Luketich, representatives from Liberty Bank

The program then continued with a raffle led by our Co-Masters of Ceremonies, William Newton and Stephanie Rodriguez.  Among the prizes were family tickets to The Children’s Museum, a Hartford Wolfpack game, various memberships to the YMCA, and 10 book/journal sets of Rashia Schand’s Jumpstart Your Money Journey, which she happily signed.  

Stephanie Rodriguez and William Newton with raffle winner
Rashia Schand with raffle winner

Treasurer Sierra concluded the Bilingual Financial Literacy Symposium with closing remarks directed at the importance of financial literacy education, including the importance of high school students completing their mandatory financial literacy courses in compliance with SB-1165.

Treasurer Carmen I. Sierra and William Newton with raffle winner

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our partners for their participation and extraordinary support to make the Bilingual Financial Literacy Symposium a huge success:  Liberty Bank, Hartford Public Schools, Hartford Parent University, The Children’s Museum, and Voya Financial.  A special thanks to my staff, lead organizer Chay Iv, Chief Administrative Officer, Stephanie Rodriguez, Senior Administrative Assistant, J. Sean Antoine, Senior Project Manager, Veneice McKenzie-Tibby, Project Manager, Sabri Akter, Senior Member Services Specialist, Khyree Ross, Intern and Chelsea Mott, Financial Systems Manager.

Survey Results:

Over 80% of participants rated the event 5/5, meaning that they were very satisfied with the overall objective of the symposium with the remainder of surveys reporting that they would have liked more time or would not change a thing.

Here’s what other attendees had to say:

Quotes from attendees:

“The Symposium was extremely informative.”
“We need more time in the workshops please.”
“Financial Literacy is essential to our community.”
“Thank you for allowing me to know that I can own my own home.”
“I would not change a thing about the symposium.”

Here’s what our workshop leads had to say about the event:

“The symposium was absolutely wonderful.  I believe many lives were transformed because of the symposium.”
“It was an amazing event and everyone did fantastic.”
“It was amazing!  I enjoyed the day.  Those in attendance seemed to really absorb the information.”
“Thank you for the opportunity to participate. It definitely was an amazing event.”

Suggested topics for future events:
Children’s version of each workshop
Basic banking for kids (checkbook, debit card best practices)
Student credit cards
Life Insurance/Insurance
End of Life Planning
Consumer Counseling
Step by step instructions for High School students regarding the FAFSA
FAFSA for students in special ed schools

For those that have not filled out a survey and would like to do so now, please download the survey at the link below and email it back to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For those that would like copies of the workshop presentations, please download them here:

Thank you to all,

Carmen I. Sierra
City Treasurer 

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