Originally published 3/10/2017 at 06:00a.m., updated 3/9/2017 at 02:44p.m.
Francesca Jean Baptiste started her career as a tax preparation volunteer while working toward a career in tax law. Though real life experiences helped shaped her course— Baptiste learned
much from a father who is from the Dominican Republic and a mother from Panama but it was the fictional Claire Huxtable who ultimately convinced her to become a lawyer.
“I think, I first got the idea watching the ‘Cosby Show’ as a kid. Phylicia Rashad just radiated grace and intelligence,” Baptiste said of the show’s Claire Huxtable.
“She looked so smart with her suits and leather briefcases. I was like, ‘Ooohh she’s a lawyer.’ And, as I got older I got hooked on ‘Law & Order.’ The district attorneys were championing
criminal justice, kicking butt in court and making it look so cool. Trust me it’s not that exciting but it just made me think that this is something I want to do. This is something I can do,” she said.
When Baptiste was offered a joint position with both the Baltimore CASH Campaign and Maryland CASH Campaign six years ago, she jumped at the opportunity.
Besides helping oversee Baltimore CASH’s free tax preparation services, Baptiste has been involved with Money Power Day, particularly the Small Business Zone. The 12th annual Money Power Day, the region’s largest free financial fitness event that aims to help boost residents’ financial well-being, is scheduled for 9 a.m. on April 1 at Poly- Western High School in Baltimore.
More than 1,000 adults, teens and children are expected to attend the free event which helps kick off National Financial Education Month. For Baptiste, the event also provides a
forum to give legal direction for some. She reminisced about when and why she first came to Maryland.
“I knew I wanted a job that was very different than the one I was leaving. I didn’t just want to work for another law firm,” she said. “I wanted to do something where I was helping to make a real difference in people’s lives. And that is what the CASH Campaign, through their various work and events like Money Power Day, are doing. They are providing people with the necessary tools and information to help them move towards financial stability in ways that are life changing.”
Free tax preparation for a family can help save as much as $500 which can be used to catch up on bills, save for a rainy day or start a college fund, she continued.
Regularly trying to conceive ideas to better engage more entrepreneurs and aspiring small business owners at the annual event led Baptiste to start the, Pitch Your Side Hustle contest, to encourage individuals to propose an idea for a chance to win $200 at Money Power Day.
She says the contest has been successful and she credits her parents with her innovative approach.
“My parents were huge motivators in my life. Both immigrated to this country,” Baptiste said. “They worked really hard to get here and make a life for themselves. They instilled in both my
sister and me the importance of getting a good education and hard work very early on. With those two things, anything was possible,” she said.
The importance of a financial education can’t be understated. The adage that “knowledge is power” holds especially true when it comes to finances, and knowing and understanding how credit and debt work is vital.
“We make our decisions based on the information we have and so when that information is limited or nonexistent we don’t make the best decisions. Financial education is all about empowering folks and arming them with the tools they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their families,” she said.
To learn more about the upcoming event or to register, visit www.moneypowerday.org.