Brock hosts financial literacy conference

AVA conferencing, owned and operated by two Niagara locals, will be holding their first major conference at Brock this May.

The event is a financial literacy seminar, and it will focus on helping students better understand finance and money. Topics that will be covered include budgeting, money management, student loans, spending and building credit. Adam Vassallo, CEO and co-founder of AVA says that the conference will specifically be addressing these topics from a student perspective, and aims to provide essential financial skills and tools that are relevant to student life.

“For this conference, we decided to focus on finance because we understand that, as students, financial literacy and management is extremely important,” said Vassallo. “We decided that it would be a good idea to bring in financial experts to help us educate youth, and to assist them with their financial planning and management.”

The speakers featured at the conference include several financial experts from PenFinancial Credit Union, including Financial Services Specialists Adam Rempel and Akshat Kaushal, and Assistant Branch Manager Emily Williams-Yeagers. These specialists will run sessions on topics such as how to understand different types of bank accounts, as well as how to manage credit. In addition to specialist-run sessions, the conference will also encourage students to interact and discuss with each other.

AVA founders Adam Vassallo and Vincent Atallah/ AVA Conferencing

AVA founders Adam Vassallo and Vincent Atallah/ AVA Conferencing

AVA conferencing was started by Vassallo and his business partner Vincent Atallah. Both grew up and attended secondary school in the Niagara Region, and they created AVA in an attempt to provide something to the region that they felt it was missing.

“The reason we started this company was because we, as high school students in the Niagara Region, came to the understanding that there was a need for some type of career development opportunities for students in the area,” said Vassallo. “We saw that need and felt that someone should do it.”

The company’s goal is to bring conferences and opportunities to the region that are relevant to students. The conferences that they intend to develop are focused largely around career development opportunities, as well as the opportunity to develop relevant skills, networking and experience.

The company’s main goal, however, is to provide students with what they want and need. To do so, they use feedback and direct communication with students in order to determine what kinds of events are wanted. Vassallo said that the idea for their first event came largely from student feedback, which indicated that students were most interested in learning more about financial literacy. This strategy of developing conferences and events based on student feedback and needs assessment is what AVA intends on continuing as they plan future events.

Continuing this focus on students and attendees’ interests, Vassallo also said that one of the goals of AVA is to help others see their event ideas become a reality. He said that he likes the idea of not just running the company’s own events, but also partnering up with others outside the company who have possible ideas. AVA would allow these people to realize their ideas by guiding and supporting them with information and resources.

“We would love to partner up with a student who has an incredible idea for a conference, but doesn’t know how to put it in motion, acting as a link between their idea and the idea being delivered to students,” said Vassallo. “We think it would be very rewarding to be able to pass the torch on to another individual and guide them with the information that we have.”

For now, the financial literacy seminar is the first of what Vassallo and Atallah hope to be many events that they run for students in the Niagara Region.

For anyone interested in attending the financial literacy seminar, it will take place at Brock University on Thursday, May 12 from 8:45 a.m. until 1:35 p.m. Tickets are offered at an “early bird” price of $22.99 for the first 50 tickets, and five dollars more once these tickets are sold. Admission includes lunch. Tickets can be purchased at

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