Partner Spotlight: Maria Lopes, Urban Upbound

Posted on: October 31, 2019

Oct. 31, 2019 – Queens, NEW YORK


Maria and her colleague Ruth presenting at the October CBO Initiative Quarterly Meeting

We recently spoke with Maria Lopes, Financial Counselor at Urban Upbound – Astoria Houses Jobs Plus about how she integrates the Save for College Program with her financial counseling work. She shared a story about Christina, a mother of a first grader at PS 171. Christina came in to activate her scholarship account and Maria engaged her in a conversation about opening her own savings account, which led them to an important discovery and the need for Maria to provide support to Christina to resolve a few issues with identity theft.

“Christina was first introduced to the program at Astoria Day, an annual event in the summertime at Astoria Houses. When she came in, we initially spoke more about the program and the benefits of the program.

After completing Building Block 1 as she planned, we spoke more on how she can also save for her daughter at the same time. She expressed how she has never had a bank account. She gets her direct deposit on a prepaid card. We then went over banking, and we decided to open a Capital One Checking account. While trying to open the account, we had some issues and called customer service. Customer service told us only there was an account opened, with her name and social but everything else incorrect. This then led to a credit report check and filing an identity theft report. Because we sat down to speak about Save for College Program, she was able to figure out, she was a victim of theft, something she probably would not have known.

When working with parents to enroll into this program, it’s not just about completing Building Blocks. It’s more of setting the families for future savings, and growth. I incorporate financial planning, which includes, reviewing their TransUnion credit report, to see where we can decrease debt, to increase savings. It’s looking at their household income vs expenses to be able to come up with a monthly contribution to their 529 plan or college savings account, that is manageable, doable and realistic. It’s also helping them to see the bigger picture, of education being available to their children, without any financial barriers.”

Thanks to the support of Citi Community Development, Urban Upbound is part of a learning community of organizations across School District 30 using the Save for College Program as a tool to support families.

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