The inaugural graduating class of Budget Buddies, a nonprofit organization that provides low-income women with innovative financial training to help move them out of poverty, received their diplomas earlier this month at Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union’s headquarters in Lowell, Mass.

The pilot program began in September with clients attending monthly workshops given by Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union on such subjects as budgeting, banking and credit. Volunteer coaches devoted hours each month to helping their buddies complete homework exercises, reinforcing the workshop materials and working on their six-month financial goals. The eight local women–clients from the Chelmsford Housing Authority and Lowell Transitional Living Center–said they were excited to have graduated with new financial skills and a path to a more secure future.

Members of Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union’s community education department specially developed and presented the curriculum for the workshop component of Budget Buddies.

“The educational support provided by Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union has been a huge factor in the success of our pilot,” said Budget Buddies Executive Director Anita Saville.

Since September, coaches have helped their buddies pay down credit card debt, reduce monthly expenses, resolve tax issues, seek debt consolidation loans and create savings plans. Many clients say they are considerably more confident about handling their finances now than they were before the program.

Budget Buddies is now talking to prospective partners about the next phase of its program, which will incorporate lessons learned from the six-month pilot. Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union has volunteered to provide additional instructional support for the second phase and is an official corporate sponsor of Budget Buddies.