Teen mothers in Catholic Family Service’s Youth Fair Gains program graduated May 12 with new financial planning skills and – best of all – money in the bank.

The students will complete the program with up to $400 in savings. Their savings will be matched 4:1, so the students can end up with an additional $1600 in their account.

“They can use these savings to go to school, buy tools for work or school, or save for their child’s education,” said Rachael Flett, Transition to Independence Program Coach at Louise Dean Centre.

During the eight-month program, students learn about budgeting, assets, banking, consumerism, and credit and debt management. This year, the students chose to also explore homemade gifts on a budget, motivation and overcoming obstacles, education on a budget and navigating student loans.

Matching funds come from individual donors, while a donation from TD supports the financial training. This year, Global Public Affairs sponsored the graduation, contributing refreshments, gifts, decorations and volunteers from the company.

“It’s amazing to see these young women working so hard to do something really positive for themselves and their babies,” said Global Public Affairs volunteer Lorraine Amberson, who helped out at the graduation ceremony with colleagues Danielle Cruz and Richa Sharma.

Courtney Stevenson, a former Youth Fair Gains graduate now attending Mount Royal University, told guests the program was the beginning of great things for her.

“I was able to save the full amount of $400 by the end of the program,” she said “I decided that working construction would be my best option at the time and I did that for about a year. As a subcontractor, you must pay your own taxes, so I started saving right away. As hard as it was, I was able to save $2000, but in the end only owed $1000.

“Determination is one of those crazy things that makes other things happen. I slowly realized that construction was a dead end job. After this realization, I had a moment that I like to call a “1.2.3 Go” moment. Within two weeks I was signed up for MRU’s Personal Fitness Trainer program.

“In essence, if it were not for Youth Fair Gains I would not be where I am today. I was able to purchase my computer and every text book so far, making it possible to attend school.”

Volunteers who assisted with a “Make Your Own Gifts” session at Christmas, provided homemade snacks and attended classes regularly were honoured at the graduation ceremony.

Volunteer Teri Hutchinson said, “I left each session feeling so proud and so optimistic for the future of each of you and your roles as contributing members of society, moms, providers for your families and fun loving girls!

“You have taught me that although life throws all kinds of obstacles into your vision of what your life should be, none of these are insurmountable.”

Read more about life skills training at Louise Dean Centre, a Calgary program for pregnant and parenting teens offered cooperatively by Catholic Family Service, the Calgary Board of Education and Alberta Health Services.