First-Generation Knight Works to Promote Financial Literacy

First-Generation Knight Works to Promote Financial Literacy

Andrew Allen has a mission: Study hard and be among the first in his family to graduate from college.

So far, so good. Allen graduated with top grades from his Fort Lauderdale-area high school and has maintained academic scholarships as a marketing and graphic design student at the University of Central Florida.

The 20-year-old junior is on track to graduate in the fall of 2018 with honors and he knows it will inspire his family.

“I know my family will be proud of me, but they know I can do it,” said Allen. “I want to inspire them, too, to pursue college and finish and reach their goals.”

In between all that hard work, Allen accumulated accomplishments that are enviable. He arrived at UCF with a Bright Futures Scholarship and several other academic scholarships. And while at the university he’s been on the President’s Honor Roll and dean’s list, and has been the recipient of the Excellence in Action Award, Project Best Most Active Member and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars Award.

But Allen said he is most proud of having worked in the Office of Student Financial Assistance, helping brand and promote the ¢ent$ible Knight$ campaign, UCF’s campuswide program which encourages financial wellness among students.

Launched in 2015, the ¢ent$ible Knight$ program guides students to resources and webinars to stay on sound financial footing. It has a website, social media pages and marketing materials. The program offers webinars and seminars on everything from how to negotiate a salary to establishing strong personal budgets. Nearly 400 online financial aid tutorials have been completed by students at UCF and the average student score on the financial literacy assessments is 84 percent.

“When I first started working with the program, I didn’t even know it existed,” said Allen. “So that was our goal, to create a campaign to drive more students to the website, give them great content there and through social media and just help them understand that there are tools to help them budget and pay for college.”

He took to the work easily, said Karemah Manselle, associate director of the Office of Student Financial Assistance, who credits Allen with helping the program grow so quickly.

“Andrew immediately began to come up with creative ways to reach the student body and developed phenomenal marketing pieces,” she said. “He has truly been in integral part of the branding of the Cent$ible Knight$ program.”

The program was recently recognized by lend.edu as one of the top 50 financial-literacy programs on a college campus, she said, and its website recently reached 10,000 unique visits.

“(Andrew) is a visionary and talented young man. Additionally, he is humble and well-rounded,” said Manselle. “He manages to maintain a high GPA while working two jobs and being actively involved. He is a true embodiment of the UCF Creed. Andrew truly has all the requisite tools needed to chart his own path.”

As part of his campus job, Allen said he’s learned a great deal about marketing on a college campus.  Along the way, he’s taken the very advice he helps promote.

“I’m going to graduate with no debt, it looks like,” he said. “The skills we promote there, they work.”

His freshman year, he struggled financially and took out a student loan. “I didn’t want my parents to sacrifice their resources for me, because it’s hard for them. They helped me all they could, but I didn’t want that burden on them.”

So he got some help from financial-aid advisors. Now, he’s making the most of scholarships and he applies for financial aid early. He’s on a budget, which he sticks to faithfully, although he admits it’s tough.

“I really need a car and I am saving up for that,” he said. “I’d like to pay off the $1,200 in student loans I have, too. But I’m sticking to the budget. I need that car first, and then I’ll pay off my loan.”

He has long-term goals, too. He’d like to graduate and work for a medium-sized advertising agency; maybe, he said, he’ll go back for another degree later because for him “the learning process never stops.”

As for his family, they were worried when he left South Florida for Orlando, and “they called every day,” he said. Three years later, they are in “the groove of things,” he said with a laugh.

“My family knows this is something I can achieve, to get my degree and reach the next level,” he said. “I’ve been getting awards for academics. I take my education very seriously. They see I am focused and that I’m not worried about trivial things.”