Our Stories: How Stephanie utilized CCCBI to build her understanding of credit.

by Marcia Tabenken | Photo by Jaime Grant

A mother of two, Stephanie didn’t know much about credit….

For years, her credit scored hovered around 500, and her plans to pursue higher education and buy a home felt out of reach.  “Everything in America is built on credit,” she observed, “like buying a house, getting a job; even If you have money, you can’t do those things without good credit.” Stephanie came to the U.S. from Haiti at age 16 with her father and siblings.

“It wasn’t easy living with family, working, and later raising my daughters,” she said. “It took me a long time to go back to school.”

Eventually she enrolled in Bunker Hill Community College and began her studies remotely while working. But saving money was a challenge. When the pandemic hit hard in Spring 2020, Stephanie had to leave her job to care for her kids, ages 10 and 12. “I wasn’t able to work because school shut down and my kids were at home.” Fortunately, Stephanie discovered the Community College Credit Building Initiative (CCCBI), a program of Boston Builds Credit that helps Bostonians at local community colleges learn the basics of credit, improve their financial skills and gain control of their finances. She enrolled, hoping to learn more about savings and credit building. “I never had anyone to teach me about credit,” she said. 

Enter financial coach Julie Demusz of Jewish Vocational Services, a Boston Builds Credit partner organization, who connected with Stephanie through CCCBI. “Julie helped me make savings a priority. I learned to stop spending on things that didn’t really matter,” she said. Julie helped Stephanie gain access to a program that enabled her to pay off outstanding utility bills. Reducing her debt allowed her to procure a credit card, a financial tool she’d never had before.  Over eight months working with her coach, Stephanie saved an additional $5,000 in her savings account, kept credit card balances low, paid bills on time, and increased her credit score from 646 to 764!

“I never thought I’d have a credit score of 760,” said Stephanie. “My goal is to buy a house, but I never thought I’d be able to because even when a had a good full-time job, my credit was bad.”

The information and strategies she acquired while working with her financial coach has given Stephanie a new outlook on her future and the way she approaches her finances. She said she aims to maintain her good credit by making payments on time and using her credit card wisely and to continue saving money by focusing on her spending priorities.“Now I’m hopeful,” said Stephanie, who will graduate from Bunker Hill this summer and transfer to Lesley University, where she plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

“Working with [financial coach] Julie was the best decision I ever made.”

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