First-generation graduate builds bridges to financial literacy for young people

Patricia Lu, center, with her EAGLE Scholars students beginning their presentation on financial literacy to their cohort of Scholars./Courtesy of Patricia Lu

Meet Patricia Lu, winner of the Daily Point of Light Award. During the third annual Global Volunteer Month, we celebrate the power of people who take on society’s greatest challenges and build stronger, more vibrant communities through volunteerism and everyday actions, like Patricia. Read her story and join the celebration of Global Volunteer Month.

As a first-generation university graduate, Patricia Lu dedicates her time as a volunteer to help the next generation reach their full potential. Patricia found the AIGLE scholarship holders program in Dallas through his work at Bank of America, and what started as a six-week volunteer program has turned into years of helping high school students develop their financial literacy skills.

The Vickery Meadow Youth Development Foundation Program and College Readiness Program is comprised of a diverse group of middle and high school students, whom Patricia enjoyed taking to the banks for field trips and practice sessions. ‘learning. Patricia was recognized as a Bank of America Global Volunteer Awardee in 2021, and her mentorship has helped awardees receive an average of $13,982 in scholarships for their college projects.

Describe your volunteer role with EAGLE Scholars and how you found mentorship volunteering.

I heard about the EAGLE Fellows in 2016 through my work at Bank of America. We kind of have a volunteer calendar. We had the opportunity to teach financial literacy to second year students. It was around a six-week engagement on Thursday nights. But every time I started getting involved, I really enjoyed my experience and thought it would be cool to stick around. Over time this evolved into not only financial literacy, but we were also able to take students to visit a bank to see what’s inside the bank and ask questions about opening an account or just help them understand what it is like when they first started growing up.

We also work with a lot of immigrants and first-generation students, and being a first-generation student myself, that was something I felt I could relate to and see myself through them a bit. I thought it would be great to be able to get involved and help them in a way that I might not have had growing up.

What curriculum do you teach your students and how has it helped them?

We have a program called Better Money Habits that covers a variety of financial literacy topics. It covers the opening of a bank account, a savings account, a credit account or covers the steps to finance a car or a house. With sophomores and younger, I started to realize that it didn’t work as effectively – they don’t really want to listen to PowerPoint presentations all day. So I adapted to what they wanted to do. We have started to organize question and answer sessions in small groups.

They have the opportunity to work in a team with a mentor to learn more about a specific subject and they have the chance to present or teach to their peers. The students said we should do a Kahoot, and I thought, what is a Kahoot? It’s basically a presentation, then a mini-quiz. You can do this on your phone and a question will pop up and you select an answer and then you will get points based on how fast you submit and if you get the answer correct or not. It was cool to see how students are more receptive to different activities.

Large group of people posing in a classroom.
Sophomores in the EAGLE Scholars program practice professional speed networking with their mentor, Patricia Lu./Courtesy of Patricia Lu

Describe the scholarship program within EAGLE Scholars.

Anyone in their second year can apply for what we call a second year application. It’s around a $600 purse. For most students, this is their first time applying for a scholarship. When I applied to college, I didn’t apply for a scholarship until senior year. So, it’s very early, but it gives them the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the realities of a scholarship and to apply with the help and support of a mentor. Over the past few years, at least one of the students has won the $600 scholarship. When they apply for college, it may apply to tuition and such, but it’s really cool to see them work through that process. And whenever I work with seniors, just being able to see how they’ve evolved since they were sophomores is one of the best things.

What inspires you to volunteer?

This is going to sound so cliché, but it feels so good to make a difference. It really is. Whenever you are able to see student rewards, there is no better feeling than when students express their gratitude for their help or simply thank you for taking the time to be with them. One thing that I have seen that is unique is that I have been able to be with them consistently. When you are able to spend time in developed relationships with students, it means so much more.

What have you learned from your experience as a volunteer?

I think I learned patience by volunteering with the students. I also learned that adults don’t know everything. Volunteering is the most effective way for me to teach, and each time it’s just about understanding that students sometimes need different teaching approaches and learning environments.

Why is it important for others to give back, especially young people and students?

Helping out is important because it helps you see the world in a different light. I always hear that kids are the future or this generation, but when you think about it, it’s true. The way you help or support the children of this generation helps them do the same for future generations. These students could be politicians or board members — there’s so much they can accomplish with our support and someone who believes in them.

Are there any partnerships, programs or events that excite you?

I’m excited about the college signing day for seniors. The seniors kind of reveal to all the EAGLE scholars where they are going to college and talk about how much scholarship they were able to get. It was a hybrid virtual and in-person event last year, and we don’t know what this year will be like, but it’s a great feeling. Every time you’re there in person and you hear 100 academics or 75 academics applauding you after sharing your news with them, it’s so exciting.

Want to make a difference in your community like Patricia? Find local volunteer opportunities.