Okanagan College alumna Erum Ahmad has been spending her time teaching Vernon high school students how to be smart with their money.

Now, she is giving one of those students a chance to put their learnings into action by creating a bursary to fund the next steps of their educational journey.

Erum, who graduated from Okanagan College in 2021, found a passion in sharing financial literacy with high school students after experiencing a lack of financial training herself.

“When I was in grade 10, I realized there were no classes to help me learn about finances,” she says. “I needed more than an introduction to budgeting, so I decided to take a course in basic accounting.”

While basic accounting was not offered at Erum’s high school, she enrolled in a course remotely. It took tenacity to learn the materials outside of the classroom and through the process, she fell in love with accounting. She went on to complete a Bachelor of Business Administration (Accounting) from OC in 2021.

“I absolutely love the idea of being able to manage my money,” says Erum. “Everyone has to have a job and needs to manage their funds. Financial literacy is an important part in helping it all make sense.”

For over two years, Erum has been taking her learnings back to the high school where she now teaches, offering to help Clarence Fulton Secondary School students learn about financial literacy.

“At the end of the day, students need to have money in order to be smart with their funds,” says Erum. “There are many transitions taking place as you move from high school to living on your own, balancing work and college life. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to teach that to students and allow them to manage their own money. I wanted to give them the education as well as the funds to apply what they have learned.”

And at this past weekend’s graduation at Clarence Fulton, Erum was there to present a bursary to Taia Buffie.

With matching funding from her employer, Progression Muscle, Bone, and Joint Clinic, Erum says the process of creating the bursary was easier than she expected.

“Giving back is important to me because that’s where I know it is going to make a difference,” she says. “When one person gives back and helps another student, it starts a cycle that keeps growing.”

Erum has experienced the impact financial awards can have. While completing her program at OC, she had four surgeries to address health issues.

“I was very sick, but I still had to finish my courses,” says Erum. “I had a lot of anxiety as I tried to get better. Because of the awards and bursaries I received, I was able to take care of myself and not worry about my finances. I’m very thankful for that support and the flexibility of my instructors who accommodated my schedule.”

Erum plans to continue adding to her love of accounting as she works towards Chartered Professional Accounting certification in September. She also plans to continue teaching about financial literacy in the community.