Children’s Aid Society
New York, NY
Twenty years ago, Kujegi Camara’s parents left everything they knew and emigrated from Gambia to the United States. Their goal was to provide a better life for their future children, who now include Kujegi and seven younger siblings. Kujegi is the first person in her family to attend college and is currently a freshman at Princeton. However, her accomplishments don’t end there.
Kujegi first started attending Children’s Aid Society Boys & Girls Club in New York City four years ago. There she was told by a friend that the Money Matters program would begin soon and she should sign up. Kujegi hoped she would leave the program understanding why saving and spending her money in a responsible way mattered. She describes the program and its workshops as an “enthralling experience.”
“The different scenarios we were shown allowed me and my peers to reflect on how the little choices we make every day will impact our future,” she says. “It was there, sitting down at the workshops discussing needs verses wants that I realized my actions today have a ripple effect on the goals I want to achieve tomorrow. With the Money Matters program, I found myself critically thinking about the way I want to save my money so I do not make the same mistakes my parents made.”
Although they have achieved their goal to provide better opportunities for their eight children, Kujegi’s parents still face a heavy financial burden. After going through the Money Matters program, Kujegi decided that because her parents sacrificed their lives in Gambia to come to the Unites States to provide a better future for her family, it was now her turn to set a good example for the siblings that look up to her.
Her first step was to live within her means. “Now, I can go into a store with a list and leave buying only what I need. It’s a great accomplishment to leave the store and not feel like I indulged in the unnecessary and to feel confident my temptations won’t distract me,” Kujegi says.
Kujegi creates budgets for her family’s shopping needs and makes sure that everything is written down and allocated for all items. Her comprehensive budget for clothes and school supplies has helped her family save more money this year. Before Kujegi’s budgets, her dad would spend around $700 a year on school supplies for his kids, but this has now been cut back to around $400.
“My saving and spending patterns have gotten significantly better since participating in Money Matters, and I’ve become financially conscious and more in control of my money,” Kujegi says. “I am always finding new ways to save and finding tips to help me spend wisely.”
Kujegi is currently majoring in Anthropology at Princeton with an end goal to work for an international non-government organization or do humanitarian work. As the first person in her family to go to college, Kujegi is still setting a good example of how she spends her money for her younger siblings.
So far her Money Matters scholarship has helped with her tuition and books. She is involved in several organizations on campus including Students of Education Reform, Poetry Club and a woman’s mentorship program. She also volunteers with kids living in transitional housing.
“In college I find myself frequently using the saving and spending tactics I learned through Money Matters,” she says. “I wanted to learn how to become financially responsible and Money Matters gave me concrete ways to achieve this goal.”