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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and with the spirit of thanksgiving – could not be a better time to show our gratitude and thanks to Grant Cuellar, Casa Loma College’s Financial Literacy Manager. Financial Literacy is a lifelong skill that is not taught in high school nor do many of us really learn about it growing up. But as students in college – with so many financial choices, it is of great importance. Mr. Cuellar is the person who knows and understands the huge impact student loans can have on your life – he wants you to be aware, informed and manage your loans responsibly. His lessons and tips will help and have helped hundreds of students and graduates of Casa Loma College.
And by Mr. Cuellar helping you manage your personal finances and federal student loans, you have in turn helped the college, keeping our student default rate to only 2.9%. To put this in context, the national federal student loan default rate is 10.1%. So during this time of thanksgiving – thank you Grant Cuellar for helping students and graduates plan and prepare for their fiscally sound future!
To get to know Mr. Cuellar beyond Casa Loma College, read on …
Tell Us About Yourself?
I was born and raised here locally in the San Gabriel Valley, east of Van Nuys. With the exception of 4 years in the US Air Force, I have always been in that area. I have been married for 44 years, with 2 daughters/spouses and 3 grandchildren. Truly, this group creates a gleam in my eyes!
Before Working at Casa Loma, What Was the Most Unusual Or Interesting Job You’ve Ever Had?
I have had 3 jobs in my 49 years of working. Each of these helped me build a portfolio of experience and knowledge. I worked for Bank of America for 29 years with the last 12 years working in the banks Student Loan Department. This then led to 11 years of being a senior business development officer with the state guarantee agency of federal student loans. When the federal government did away with state guarantee agencies in 2000, I was hired to manage Casa Loma College’s default prevention program. An offshoot of this was to expand student awareness of financial literacy concepts and issues.
What Inspired You to Help Students, As You Do in This Job?
Each day I know that in some fashion I am assisting our current and former students to understand how critical the assistance of federal financial aid (grants and loans) are to them in paying for their career choice of working in the Allied Health field. More than 85% of our students need federal funding to pay for their schooling.
What Is Your Favorite Thing About Your Job?
When a former student might experience a severe financial or medical challenge to their family (80% of them will) – I can offer payment relief options to them as they attempt to navigate their student loan repayment obligations.
What Have Been Your Most Important, Proudest And/or Favorite Experience in Your Career?
There are many but one stands out. One of my assignments with Bank of America was that of an Assistant Vice President in the Personnel Administration department, i.e. Human Resources in today’s work climate. In 1979, one of my initial tasks was to work with a report of employees who had been in a Long-Term Disability (LTD) status for several years. In researching these files, I determined that one of them had not filed for her LTD benefits. At the end of my review I was able to hand deliver a check for $32,000 to her. She cried as she stated that she could then pay off her mortgage.
Who Has Influenced You the Most in Life and Why?
Dave Ramsey has been a significant influencer to me. He teaches and preaches that financial savvy and awareness comes from living within our means. He states, “Cash is King!” He also suggests that “we live like no one else so that later on we can live like no one else.” His principles are at the very heart of all the financial literacy awareness that I attempt to share with our students.
If you could do another job, anywhere, for just one day, what would it be? And why?
I would love to go to Washington DC and be an aide to a member of Congress for a day. To be able to see firsthand what transpires for a day would be awesome.
If You Could Have Dinner with One Person, Living or Dead, Who Would It Be and why?
I admire and respect excellent orators. Barack Obama is an outstanding example of this. I would love to sit and talk with him to learn more about his journey to the White House.
How Do You Like to Spend Your Free Time?
Working in our yard and spending time with family is wonderful. Along the way, I love to watch and follow the Dodgers, Lakers and Rams!!
Best vacation you’ve ever had?
My wife and I went to New Orleans and spent several days there. We stayed at the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter. It has been around since 1886. The restaurants, horse driven carriages and local scenery of the city are very special.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
In the Air Force, I was a radio operator listening to Morse code and translating it into typed characters information from Russian satellite launches and then Viet Cong traffic about troop movement and their planned attacks. In Vietnam, I flew 100 missions in the back of a DC-47 aircraft. This taught me the value of careful listening skills and thank goodness how to type!!
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