CSU students like Justin Kizer serve as peer-to-peer coaches where they teach budgeting and goal setting to improve financial positioning. “I love having the opportunity to help people in need and becoming a peer coach is a great avenue for doing that,” said Kizer, a senior financial management major. This semester he and other students get to apply their skills with kids in North Charleston.
“I hope that through our visits we can spend quality time with the kids, teach them about financial literacy and how it can be applied in their lives, and also help show them the love of Christ,” Kizer said.
Beyond Our Walls (BOWS) kicked off nearly two decades ago under the direction of Joyce Maybin Nesmith. She sought to create a platform for community volunteerism and give students in Charleston County’s District 4 schools an opportunity to increase their academic and personal potential.
After seeing how high school students and their parents struggled with basic financial literacy, Nesmith knew it was vital to teach them where they are and at a young age. “We have to help families in that poverty bubble to get them in a better place financially,” she said. “We constantly hear about black and brown children and the achievement gap. We need to start addressing the achievement gap and come up with resources out in the neighborhood to do that.” Curriculum in the BOWS program consists of math, reading, and financial literacy concepts.
For 10 years, she and other volunteers served on the campus of Burns Elementary in North Charleston. They opened a facility on Harvey Avenue in 2014.
Until a few years ago, BOWS was an entirely unpaid volunteer staff. Now, thanks to a family foundation, they can pay a few stipends for part-time workers. BOWS still relies heavily on community partnerships and volunteers.
Nesmith said she most appreciates when people put action with words. “It’s one thing for people to talk about the needs of the community, and it’s another thing when they actually come and get involved. I commend Charleston Southern University in coming out to the neighborhood,” she said. “The [kids at BOWS] will be inspired by students who are closer to their age. It’s going to be done in a nice, impactful way and done right there in their community.”
The partnership between CSU and BOWS was God-orchestrated, according to Dr. Heather Chadwick, an assistant professor of economics with the Nielsen College of Business. Chadwick met Nesmith through a mutual friend on BOWS board of directors. Chadwick shared with a friend about the peer-to-peer student coaches within the new Center for Personal Financial Management at CSU. Her friend sits on the BOWS Board of Directors. After months of planning, Chadwick launched the students to BOWS for bi-weekly sessions. “They are excited to teach what they know about finance and literacy and working with the kids and the community,” she added.
After a couple of sessions, Kizer and CSU students are already forming bonds. “The moment I walked in the door, most of the kids got really excited and almost all of them remembered my name. We really are able to make an impact on these kids,” Kizer said. “Going to BOWS has already become a wonderful experience, and it’s a relationship that I hope continues for a long time.”