By Haven Shannon, Program Associate
My first job was at an alternative lender service provider. My main responsibility was in offering short-term loans with interest rates higher than 300%. These loans were to people who came in to borrow for an emergency. This didn’t sit well with me, especially because customers quickly became frequent borrowers, due to their inability to get out of a cycle of debt. I felt that finance and customer service were my key strengths, so I moved on to work at a credit union, where I believed that I could really help people with their financial needs.
At the credit union, I found that I really enjoyed helping people understand their accounts and the best ways to utilize them. I also found that people who could benefit most from our services were often turned away or underserved. These were predominantly people of color, Black and Latino families. As a Black woman who has experienced prejudice in business encounters, it was clear to me that there was an issue with low-income families and people of color accessing quality financial services, especially in relation to credit. Disheartened at my inability to create a positive experience for clients whom I felt would benefit from the credit unions services, I left the finance world.
In 2018, I returned to school to pursue a degree in Community Studies. And I joined Santa Cruz Community Ventures (SCCV) as their Program Associate. The work that excites me most is the Familas con Más initiative at SCCV because we are working to limit predatory lending services in Watsonville and increase accessibility to traditional financial services. Going forward in my career, I want to focus my efforts on changing systems, rather than trying to navigate them, and I feel that SCCV is working hard to create equitable opportunities for all members of the community. In a sense it is a marrying of my two strengths and I’m excited to see where this new path will lead.