Making a Connection: Young Professionals Share Their Knowledge and Skills in Volunteer Roles

Categories: Community Outreach, Emerging Philanthropists, Feature, Giving, Other, Volunteering

Megan Audet and her fiancé, Chris Grassano, are contributing their professional skills and expertise to empower those in need. 

Megan and Chris, 26-year-old CPAs originally from Pennsylvania, have served as volunteers with Catholic Charities for more than a year. They are two of the young professionals who make up a new generation of contributors to the agency.

Initially drawn to the agency’s overall mission, they found a more intimate connection after learning about our Financial Stability Network (FSN), which provides financial education and coaching to those in need.

“I love working with people and learning from others’ experiences,” Megan said. “So, this was an incredible opportunity to give back and get to know some amazing people. Specifically, with FSN, it feels beneficial to share my knowledge with others to help them overcome any adversity they may currently be facing in life.”

Megan, who is employed by FTI Consulting, started out by teaching a budgeting class to students at the Catholic Charities Center once a month. Instead of teaching a general curriculum, Megan tailored her lesson plans around what would be most applicable to her students’ lives, many of whom were new to the United States. She taught them practical budgeting tips like how to open a bank account and how to use free apps to help them stay on track on a daily basis.

Soon, Megan and Chris, who works for KPMG, became financial coaches, working with individual clients on achieving their short- and long-term financial goals. Their clients sought their help to tackle a variety of issues, from paying down large amounts of medical debt, to developing a plan to save for a house. They worked to make banking more approachable and accessible for their clients.

“With over 10% of the D.C. population unbanked,” Chris noted, “each individual who creates a bank account and understands the benefits of using a checking and savings account is a true success story for me.”

During their time as volunteer coaches, they were invited to be instructors for a pilot program teaching financial literacy to inmates at the Prince George’s County Community Release Center. The program was developed by FSN to supplement the work of the Welcome Home Re-Entry program.

For five weeks, Megan and Chris covered a range of personal finance topics, including budgeting, banking services, savings, and credit cards. They also tailored their lessons around their students’ personal situations and taught them important information like how to open a bank account as someone with a criminal record.

“Megan and Chris have done a wonderful job teaching a life skill — financial literacy — to a community in serious need of understanding personal finance,” said Deacon Jim Shanahan, who oversees the FSN. “Megan and Chris were very effective in explaining budgeting, credit scores, debt management, banking and tax planning to individuals about to re-enter the working world.”

Participants had the opportunity to ask specific questions about issues they would face when they transitioned out of the criminal justice system. Megan and Chris were pleasantly surprised to hear that many of their students hoped to open businesses upon their release. While this wasn’t their area of expertise, they felt the topic was important enough to research and to provide them with resources.

“I loved getting questions that neither Megan nor I knew the answer to, researching them after class, and then following up the next week,” Chris said. “Not only did it help expand our knowledge, but it also provided us with more knowledge about what each of the students commonly face financially.”

To learn more about how young professionals can volunteer, visit us online at catholiccharitiesdc.org/volunteer.