Jeanette’s Story: Supporting Her Students However She Can
Meet Jeanette, an academic advisor and college counselor who lives with her two children in the Bronx, New York.
What do you do for work?
I’ve been working as an academic advisor and college counselor for the past 20 years at a college in New York. The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely affected my job. Everything is different. No one comes in for in-person appointments anymore, and we have to wear masks and get our temperature taken every time we go on campus. Before the pandemic, I was working hands-on with students and I had my own office. Technically, I still have my own office, but now I’m working from home. These days, I only go onto campus once a week.
Going virtual has been quite the transition. I realized that a lot of students would rather have that in-person advising and counseling experience. When I was working in the office, I created personal relationships with my students and they’d come in and talk to me all the time. Now we just talk on the phone.
These days, I am counseling students virtually. I believe they’d rather be on campus, but there are still restrictions in place to avoid crowding. This whole situation has been hard on everyone.
I try to keep them focused on their goals and aspirations. I used to have a lot of kids come in and talk for hours at a time. A lot of students have financial issues because they or their parents lost their jobs. And some students are having to deal with personal issues like their grandparents passing away from COVID-19. More than anything, I believe it’s important to remind them that their loved ones wouldn’t want them to give up.
Walk me through a day in your life.
I wake up and roll out of bed, brush my teeth, make some coffee, turn on my computer, help students register for classes, and respond to emails. I have a lot of Zoom calls these days, communicating with my coworkers, supervisors, and students. I always try to reach out to my students whenever I can to let them know that I’m here if they need me.
How do you and your kids deal with virtual school?
My son is in 8th grade and does his work in the living room, and my daughter is in 11th grade and does her work in her own room. On a daily basis, I just make sure they wake up in time for class, ensure their laptops are on, and check on them every so often see if they’re listening to their lectures. In the last couple of months, I’ve really gotten a chance to connect even more with my children since we’re all working and going to school from home.
Tell me about your side hustle(s).
Prior to March 2020, I was driving for UberEats and Instacart. When the pandemic hit, I didn’t want to risk my health or the health of my family. I knew I had to find something different. I got my license to be an insurance advisor and also started helping my friend and her management company. I’m her assistant and she pays me twice a month. I’m a representative for Total Life Changes, so I help sell health products. In addition to all that, I do paid surveys and focus groups when I can. Whenever I get extra money from those things, I put it toward my emergency fund.
My son sometimes works with me on my side hustles. I’m teaching him how to be responsible. He takes half of what he earns and puts that money in his own savings account.
I have automatic transfers to my accounts on a monthly basis. I have the Acorns app for my retirement, investments, and accounts for my children. I also transfer allowance to my children’s savings account, insurance, and emergency funds. I pay myself first. Coming from a childhood where my mother didn’t teach me about saving money, I think I’ve done a good job with my own children.
How do you like to plan out paying your bills?
When I got a divorce a couple of years ago, I was left in a bad financial situation. I had a lot of credit card debt at that time.That’s when I started doing extra jobs to supplement my income. I took a class on financial literacy and financial freedom that really helped me.
From there, I used a budget book to help me keep track of my expenses. I labeled the due dates of the bills and in order to prevent not paying each bill, I set up automatic bill payments. I learned my lesson from the number of times I forgot to pay the bills and had to call the company to beg them not to charge any additional fees.
Tell me more about your childhood and money.
My mother didn’t have much when I was growing up, so when I got older, I realized that I wanted a better life for my children. I want to teach them what I didn’t know. In watching my mother struggle, I realized how important it was to get a good education. To me, education was the key to an independent, financially stable life. I accumulated $15,000 in student loans by the time I graduated college and made sure to pay it off right away. As soon as I got my tax refund, I would put every penny toward paying down my debt. Of course, this was before I had kids so I could afford to pay off my debt like that. When I got older and landed a job at the college where I earned my Bachelor’s degree, I was fortunate enough that the college paid for my Master’s.
How do you feel about SaverLife?
I discovered SaverLife through the Budgetnista’s Facebook group, DreamCatchers. I’ve given so many resources from SaverLife to my students. There’s also a lot of COVID-19 resources for food, help with paying rent, and more. A lot of my students are SaverLife members, too.
SaverLife also introduced me to FindHelp.org, which has helped many of my students find resources they need.