By Travis M. Whitehead Valley Morning Star, Harlingen, Texas

Apr. 28--HARLINGEN -- Victoria Garza enjoyed learning about money earlier this past week.

"I loved it!" said the senior from Harlingen School of Health Professions. She was one of about 200 seniors who attended the Congressman Filemon Vela Financial Education Summit on Thursday.

The event at the HCISD Performing Arts Center was presented by the Building Financial Capacity Coalition, a nonprofit that assists Vela in coordinating the summit each year.

"We're here today to talk about finances and financial wellbeing," said Zoraima Diaz-Pineda, manager for the La Puerta Program, an initiative of the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville. She was one of several speakers at the event, along with student groups who also gave presentations.

"We're often referred to as the poorest area in the USA with the lowest credit scores where generational poverty is deeply entrenched," she said. "Households are working harder and harder and harder facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve financial health and accumulate wealth."

According to a 2011 Charles Schwab study, most teens believe they understand money matters very well. However, they don't understand specifics about practical matters such as establishing good credit and balancing a checkbook.

The BFCC has been working with student ambassadors from each of Harlingen's high schools, teaching them skills of financial management they can teach their classmates.

"We're teaching those students as much as possible what we know from our careers and from our backgrounds," said Bertha Garza, executive director. "We also use the FDIC modules which give them a lot of training in how to budget, how to use credit, how to take care of their money, and how to make financial decisions when they graduate."

Those same student ambassadors gave their own presentations Thursday at the PAC, to the delight of both classmates and teachers.

"This event was a tremendous success and I am proud of our students who presented on behalf of our high schools," said HSHP Principal Tina Garza.

Victoria was likewise pleased.

"Events like this are not always available and I am proud that I attend a district that provided this opportunity," she said.