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Latinos gain financial wisdom at USC, Univision event

Carmen Andrea Chavez, right, helps Amelia Gonzalez and her husband, Luis, as they line up for seminar vouchers during the Financial Fair at USC. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

More than 5,000 Latinos and their families visited USC to acquire financial advice on homeownership, small business resources, education aid, auto financing and stock investments during Feria Financiera: Plan Prosperidad (Financial Fair, Plan Prosperity), an event co-hosted by the Spanish-language television network Univision on March 16.

Alberto Mier y Terán, senior vice president and general manager at Univision, and Cesar Armendariz, director of community outreach on the Health Sciences Campus, opened the event with a ribbon cutting ceremony outside Bovard Auditorium.

Eager attendees lined up as early as 8 a.m. on a bright Saturday morning for a day that included town halls in Bovard Auditorium and workshops in Taper Hall. Financial expert and author Julie Stav discussed the importance of lowering debt and redirecting finances toward investments.

“Start by investing $10,” said Stav, who encouraged participants to integrate investment and savings into their monthly expenditures.

The investment information was eye-opening for Josefina Velez, a retail worker who attended Stav’s workshop.

“In our culture, we’re taught to work hard and be responsible, yet there’s little knowledge on how to make what little money we save work for us,” Velez said. “We have to learn to work smarter, not harder.”

Velez also set out to learn more about savings and college aid. With two children on the college track, she and her husband, an LAPD officer, attended a meeting that explained how their children can attend four-year colleges.

USC’s workshop La Universidad al Tu Alcance (College Within Reach), presented by Jessica Medina, senior assistant director of outreach, and Sara Delgadillo, assistant director at the university’s Financial Aid office, provided details on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid as well as information on scholarship and grant application resources.

During a panel discussion, Karen Velazco, a USC freshman studying biological science, and her mother, Laura Madrid, a member of the Latino Parent Association, discussed their experiences of navigating the financial aid process.

“It’s critical to know that college is an achievable dream,” Madrid said.

Sergio Gascon, executive director of the USC Minority Business Development Agency Business Center, led Recursos Para Negocios Pequenos (Small Business Resources) with the Los Angeles Mayor’s Community Development Department and the Valley Economic Development Center. Gascon led a community dialogue based on his top 10 tips for small business entrepreneurs.

“One of the most important tips I want to convey,” Gascon said, “is to stay focused. It’s easy for an entrepreneur to want to spin off to a new idea, especially after an error, but that error should help them make adjustments, not necessarily spin off into a new direction.”

As attendees visited the town halls and seminars, others acquired financial information from local nonprofits in the outdoor exhibit area. One of the most popular corners was the booth staffed by the National Latina Business Women Association (NLBWA), whose members provided advice on financial literacy, strategic marketing and tips on expanding a business network.

NLBWA board member Annabel Nava ’96, owner of the general contractor TLC 4 Your Home Inc., gave advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.

“It makes me proud to see so many Latinos on campus and to see my alma mater host such an important event,” Nava said. “NLBWA provides an environment of support and encouragement to continue empowering not only the entrepreneur but also the corporate professional.”

View photos from the event below

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