Dr. Per Cap’s 2015 Financial Literacy All Stars
First Nations Development Institute is proud to partner with Dr. Per Cap during Financial Literacy Month to highlight the great work of some financial literacy heroes. Dr. Per Cap, as usual, provides his insight on all things related to Native American financial education.
Dr. Per Cap’s Financial Literacy 2015 All-Star Picks
April is national Financial Literacy Month, so let’s celebrate by recognizing a few outstanding individuals who are working hard to expand financial education efforts throughout Indian Country. In keeping with what has become an annual tradition each week in April, I will highlight the accomplishments of one totally awesome person who embodies the spirit of Native financial empowerment through selfless dedication, action over words, and an inclusive community vision. We’ve got five weeks in April this year, so here’s a bonus fifth All Star!
All Star #5: Dawn Hix, IDA Coordinator, Choctaw Asset Building
Nothing says freedom like free money. That’s the idea behind a program called Individual Development Accounts (IDAs). IDAs are a nifty wealth-building strategy that offers free money to account holders through matched savings to help purchase a home, fund a business, or pay for higher education.
“For most people the program means independence,” explains asset-builder extraordinaire Dawn Hix. “Their motivation is tied to things like freedom, personal choice and pride of ownership. When a saver makes his or her last deposit and is ready to purchase a meaningful asset – that’s a great day.”
Make no mistake, Dawn has witnessed more than her share of great days since joining Choctaw Asset Building in 2009 – over 400 in fact. That’s how many savers the Durant, Oklahoma-based IDA Coordinator has helped to complete the program while collecting deposits, teaching financial education classes, and facilitating asset purchases. The combined personal savings add up to more than $700,000. Tack on another $1.5 million of matching funds and we’re talking over $2 million of new wealth creation. That’s an astonishing number considering that while IDAs are a proven model, they’re also notoriously tough programs to manage due to high participant dropout rates.
So what’s Dawn’s secret to keeping savers on track?
Aside from a well-oiled referral network that includes Choctaw Nation Housing, Little Dixie Community Action Agency, the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, and Big Five Community Services, Dawn works hard to build strong relationships with her savers and maintains a constant presence in the communities her program serves in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas. A lifelong educator, she spent 16 years as a high school business teacher with the Durant Public Schools before her current position at Choctaw Asset Building, a division within the Choctaw Nation Career Development Department. Motivated by a genuine desire to see people succeed by realizing their dreams, she’s especially proud of becoming reacquainted with some of her former high school students who later become IDA savers.
“They’re great because I can still tell them what to do!” joked Dawn.
One of these individuals, currently a graduate student and employee at Choctaw Nation, stands out in particular.
“He was in my class during his senior year,” she recalls. “Then a few years after I transferred he joined the IDA program. He saved for three years to buy a house, but when it came time to close there was a mix up and his down-payment funds were not available. He called while I was in a meeting out of town and was really stressed. Fortunately, I was able to get in touch with our advisor in D.C. who approved the close that day with pending funds.”
Never one to take personal credit for accomplishments that she feels are the result of dedicated partners and team effort, Dawn is always quick to mention others when sharing highlights from her career. She also draws inspiration from her husband of 28 years, Tandy, who just happens to be a local banker (go figure!), and their two sons whose families include two grandchildren and a third on the way.
“A wonderful thing about working in the tribal world is that you don’t work alone,” she adds. “We all work together for one goal: to help tribal members succeed. I am so very blessed to work with a group of professionals who make it so very easy to reach that common goal. There is no one-person show here. I also have a large circle of friends and professional acquaintances to call on in times of need. The Native world and the asset-building world are wonderful at sharing their experience and knowledge.”
Now that’s what I call a class act. Thank you, Dawn, for all that you do. The Native asset-building world is more than blessed to work with you, too!
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