Boston Saves interviewed Family Champion Maimouna Bah, a Boston resident of some 16 years. Maimouna migrated to the United States from the Republic of Guinea in 2006, eventually settling in Boston to be closer to extended family. After attending middle and high school at BPS, Maimouna attended the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she earned a bachelors in Political Science and a masters in International Relations. After graduating, she went to work in the HR department at the Boston Public Library (BPL). She currently lives in Dorchester with her husband, her younger sister and her two children.

Bah family, from left Mariame (6 years old), husband Amadou, Aisha (23 months), and Maimouna

Maimouna’s eldest daughter, a 1st grader at Dever Elementary, is a voracious reader. “She loves learning, she’s very creative, she draws; I don’t know where she got that from, not from me,” Maimouna shared. When her daughter was younger, Maimouna would take advantage of her job at BPL to supply her daughter with dozens of books a week, which they would read together; now that her daughter is older, she picks books herself, and reads at every opportunity she’s presented. “We’ll be watching television, and she’ll say, ‘turn on the subtitles, I want to read it-’ even though you can hear everything they’re saying!”

Maimouna strongly values her daughter’s literacy and love of learning because she values financial independence. Her own financial independence was hard-earned; she worked to put herself through school while earning her bachelors and masters degrees. Her only goal for her children is that they can attain similar financial independence, so that they can shape their own lives as they see fit with a measure of security, and she views college readiness as a vital step along that path.  “I know how I struggled when I went to college,” Maimouna recalls. “I didn’t experience the college life that people speak of. I go to school; soon as school’s done, I’m running out to go to work. I couldn’t quit my job, I would not quit school- and I decided, no, I don’t want my children to go through that- I want her just to focus on school, even though she wants to work- and if she’s working, then not because she needs to work.” Like many parents in similar situations, Maimouna is discouraged by the rising costs of a college education. 

Maimouna, who is heavily involved in the schooling of her daughters and younger sister, first heard of Boston Saves from the Dever School Newsletter. She thought that the program synergized well with the college saving she was already doing. “Oh, I’m already saving; why not add into that?” she thought. She found that Boston Saves offered attainable incentives, particularly given her daughter’s love of books. “Boston saves gives you this much if you read? Well, we’re already reading!”

Maimouna credits her involvement in her daughter’s school, and in her community more broadly, with her learning about the opportunities Boston Saves has to offer. Now she takes advantage of her close connections with her community to spread the word about Boston Saves and what it can offer students and families. Her advice? “Read the newsletter from the BPS- there are so many wonderful resources that it provides. Get involved with your school- it helps a lot, it creates connections between you and the teachers, the principal, and that’s good for your child.”

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