UA Students Provide Financial Education and Assistance to First-Time Homebuyers


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By Ashley Cunigan
CCBP Student Program Assistant

Dr. Nicole Prewitt believes in student success and emphasizes the importance of volunteerism in the classroom. As director of Programs and Partnerships for Community Engagement, Prewitt leads a service-learning course for University of Alabama honors students preparing them to assist first-time homebuyers in a financial wellness initiative known as HomeFirst.

The mission of the HomeFirst initiative is to serve Greene, Hale and Tuscaloosa County individuals and families on their path toward first-time homeownership. Students in the course completed financial education modules assessing their goals toward money management and savings. Individuals were asked to discuss their results with one another, and many were concerned with student debt and credit building. With the assistance of HomeFirst, these volunteer financial coaches are trained to offer one-on-one support to their clients developing a broad-based action plan for homebuying.

“I read an email for the Honors College about this course and wanted to give back to the community,” said Alex Lang, a senior accounting major from Milwaukee. Lang explained that there are real problems in America, and the HomeFirst training sessions effectively prepare students to coach individuals preparing to buy a house.

Throughout the session, students connected with community partners willing to provide knowledge and resources for successful homeownership. Residents in smaller communities are often overlooked as potential homebuyers, said Anita Lewis, director of the Greene County Housing Authority. “The housing authority is not for permanent stay,” she said. “My dream is to help these families find homes they can stay in. We have to start educating people when they are young. Once we learn better, we will do better.”

In addition to the HomeFirst training, students engaged in a P.I.E. [Practicing Inclusive Engagement] Workshop with the Crossroads Community Center to increase cultural competency skills. They were asked to evaluate positive intentions and negative impacts regarding specific phrases related to social identity. This workshop fostered a welcoming environment for the participants to share their ideas on how they can be inclusive with first-time homebuyers.

“Our student-led, relationship-based approach supports those on their path toward housing stability while building a community of financially and culturally competent citizens. Students are our greatest asset, and it is my hope that they will learn alongside the community participants,” Prewitt said.