Story by Marianna Moore

While walking up and down Rollins Street at the annual Midnight BBQ, then-freshman Aaron Witherspoon noticed two classmates of his. He hadn’t made any friends yet, and he was determined to change that.

“I kind of stepped outside of my comfort zone and introduced myself to just take that first step,” Witherspoon says. “We’ve been close ever since.”

The willingness to leave his comfort zone didn’t end there.

Later that year, Witherspoon joined the Mizzou’s Black Men’s Initiative. Because of his passion for Mizzou, he also joined Alumni Association Student Board and United Ambassadors. Finally, he joined the fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha.

Alpha Phi Alpha in particular gave Witherspoon the support he needed to excel on campus.

“They helped me really build my confidence and really show me that I can do anything on the university that I put my mind and heart into,” Witherspoon said. “The sky is the limit and I can do anything.”

Aaron Witherspoon as seen through a reflective pane of glass.
Aaron Witherspoon has merged his in-class studies with his out-of-class involvement as treasurer of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Witherspoon is a personal financial planning major in the College of Human Environmental Sciences. At age 16, he bought his first share of stock and has been increasing his financial knowledge ever since. Witherspoon puts his own money at risk while investing. He believes in taking chances in order to improve himself.

“You’re not going to grow unless you’re uncomfortable,” Witherspoon says.

Witherspoon gives advice to his friends about successfully managing their finances and is always looking to lend a helping hand.

“That’s something that I try to stress a lot about is finances,” Witherspoon says. “Make sure you guys are saving your money and budgeting.”

Witherspoon points out that “you’ll probably be close to a millionaire” by age 50 if you consistently contribute money to an individual retirement account.

Witherspoon’s job has given him even more experience and knowledge to share with his peers. He works at Commerce Bank and shadows a portfolio manager. Witherspoon also takes a class that requires him to do taxes through the university’s free tax-preparation clinic.

That experience gave him the confidence to prepare his parents’ taxes earlier this year.

“They were completely shocked that I knew how to do everything,” Witherspoon says. “They just completely trusted me.”

Witherspoon’s dad, who lives in St. Louis, sent him a message the next day saying, “Son, I can’t believe you really did our taxes.” His dad also expressed interest in having Witherspoon help the family with investing once he graduates.

“That’s the long-term goal for my family,” Witherspoon says. “Eventually when I get out I want to make sure that my family is pretty good.”

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