Alan Nesbitt has been working at the Financial Empowerment Centers since early 2013. Before his work at the FEC, Alan spent three years as a Resource Manager for the Campaign for Working Families, collected financial data as a clerk at the U.S. Census Bureau, and helped to design maps for Philadelphia as well as parts of Texas and Delaware. He’s passionate about financial literacy and sees the FEC as a reliable social safety net that can help people to become financially independent. He recognizes that creating a surplus budget is hard, but works with his clients every day to ensure that they can gain full control of their finances. A quick piece of advice from Alan? “Don’t buy a timeshare–there’s no good way out of it!”
One of Alan’s clients was paying overdraft fees of nearly one hundred dollars per month so she and Alan worked out a plan to get her finances back on track. After working on her budget, she is now able to pay down her student loans and credit cards and no longer has to pay so many fees to the bank. In his life outside of work, Alan enjoys reading, writing, meditating, and studying finance. He graduated from Temple University with a bachelor’s degree in geography and urban affairs.
Keola Harrington has been working in personal finance for over three years and has been a counselor at the Financial Empowerment Centers since May, 2014. Before coming to the FEC, Keola, an AmeriCorps VISTA member, taught math in West Philadelphia through the City Year program. She spent a year with Pathways PA as a financial educator and tax preparer for low-income residents and worked for Clarifi as a financial counselor. She enjoys her work as a financial counselor because of its flexibility—as long as a problem can be solved, she’s willing to help her client to solve it. She has even given clients advice on writing their resumés! She works hard to make herself available to her clients and views her relationships with them as central to her work as a financial counselor.
One of Keola’s clients came in to her because he really wanted to get his money together. Before his visit, he wasn’t saving any money and didn’t know how to manage his credit. Working with Keola, he has established a healthy savings habit, paid down five different accounts, and is no longer late with his credit and car payments. Outside of work, Keola enjoys traveling, going to musical festivals, and biking along the Schuylkill River trail. She is an alumna of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, holding bachelor’s degrees in finance and accounting.
Kimberly Rogers has been a financial counselor at the Financial Empowerment Centers since early 2013 and has been working in social services for a full decade. Prior to her work at the FEC, Kim was a case manager for SNAP eligibility and fought hunger as part of the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger. She loves that her work at the FEC isn’t just about numbers; it’s about people. One of her favorite parts of her job is seeing what happens when she gives her clients the tools that they need to become financially independent. A piece of advice from Kim: stop ignoring your finances—confronting issues head-on is the best way to deal with them.
One of Kim’s clients, a father of two, came to her for help in buying a house for his kids. Together, he and Kim managed to establish a savings habit, start a retirement fund, and tackle his credit score. He’s now eligible for a mortgage and his credit score is on its way up. Outside of work, Kim enjoys mentoring young people at her church and helps to run the Sunday school program. She graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Communications and received her master’s degree in Divinity from Howard University School of Divinity.
Maria Bonilla has over eight years of experience in personal finance and has worked at the Financial Empowerment Centers since the program’s launch in 2013. Before coming to the FEC, she spent five years providing credit, debt, and housing counseling at Clarifi (formerly Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Delaware Valley). Maria also spent fifteen years as Program Manager at the Maternity Care Coalition, managing health advocacy programs. She enjoys her work at the FEC because it allows her to help people to establish healthy financial behaviors that can lift them out of crisis situations. She offers a key piece of advice: “You need to prioritize first!” When helping her clients to budget their money, Maria stresses the importance of priorities in creating a firm financial foundation upon which to build in the future.
One of Maria’s clients was a widow who came to her for help after her husband passed away. Since her husband had taken care of the household’s finances, she had no personal bank accounts, no credit cards, and very little money saved. After several months and with Maria’s coaching, she managed to save $8,000 and increased her credit score to 732. Maria is a graduate of Community College of Philadelphia with an associate degree in behavioral health and social services. She is a certified housing and credit counselor and is fluent in both Spanish and English.
Oumou Cisse has three years of experience in personal finance and has worked at the Financial Empowerment Centers since the program’s launch in 2013. Prior to her work at the FEC, she worked at South Philadelphia Homes, Inc., where she managed all of the company’s transactions. Oumou loves helping her clients to achieve their goals and enjoys using her degree in finance to help the community. She sees budgeting as the first step to becoming financially independent because it allows one to track their expenses and get a good idea of where they stand. Oumou is always willing to schedule as many appointments as it takes for one of her clients to overcome their financial challenges.
One of Oumou’s clients was behind on her credit card payments and was being sued by the credit card company. With Oumou’s help, the client, afraid and unable to afford to go to court, was able to negotiate a settlement with the credit card company. When her father visited from out of state, she even brought him in to the Financial Empowerment Center to meet Oumou. Oumou enjoys reading and attended Temple University and Community College of Philadelphia, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in finance. She is fluent in French, Mandingo, and English.
Rena Williams-Taylor has over 25 years of experience in financial services and has been a Lead Counselor at the Financial Empowerment Centers since March, 2013. Before she came to the FEC, she was a Branch Sales Manager at HSBC, HFC/Beneficial in Philadelphia, where she specialized in assessing clients’ financial abilities to purchase or refinance their home, purchase a car and take out personal loans. Rena also spent four years teaching English and Math in the Philadelphia School District. Rena enjoys working with her clients and instilling a feeling of empowerment in them. Her vision is to assist the communities of Philadelphia in becoming financially self-sufficient.
Rena graduated from Gwynedd Mercy College with her bachelor’s degree in business administration and management.