Follow Your
Dreams Publishing

The author


LaDonna N. Smith, an award winning children’s book author, is a passionate promoter of financial responsibility and a dynamic speaker who’s determined to get students excited about their financial futures. LaDonna is also the originator and current driving force behind the S.W.A.G (Saving With A Goal) program. S.W.A.G is a groundbreaking educational program that provides free financial education workshops to young people, and at-risk young adults. This trailblazing program is preparing to mark its 5th year anniversary and consistently creates innovative programs in support of youth financial literacy.

The goal of the S.W.A.G program is to offer free financial workshops, build community resources and relationships, and establish new financial literacy programming that is meaningful and relatable to everyone. Some of the unique teaching tools created by the programs organizer are: “A Taste of the Real World” a financial literacy simulation game; where the room is the board game and the participants are the game pieces. A Taste of the Real World gives each participant a unique consumer profile, and turns them into instant adults. During the game, young people are given the opportunity to make financial choices (such as housing, transportation, and clothing) and see the impact of both good and bad financial decisions in a seemingly real, but safe environment. The Money Ball Challenge; is a basketball workshop like no other. Aimed at young student athletes, the workshop combines exciting basketball drill sequences, a guided game-situational play approach, and financial literacy with a game show component featuring questions about some of the most famous basketball players of all time who lost it all due to poor money management.

Among other things, LaDonna Smith is the creator of the award winning children’s books The Money Tree, The Money Tree Bard Game, Money in the Bank Card Game, Saving With A Goal Workbook, and has launched several financial literacy campaigns. Her campaigns include her annual Spreading The Financial Buzz - essay and art contest for young people in grades K-12, her Little Boss, Big Business financial literacy/entrepreneurship camp, and a social media SWAG dance challenge which features LaDonna’s hit financial literacy song which she wrote, produced, and performs at local schools. In May of 2018 LaDonna debuted her financial literacy song S.W.A.G for nearly 500 students at McNaulty Academy in Amsterdam, NY.

During the past school year, roughly 3,587 students across the capital district attended S.W.A.G workshops or events.

The results of S.W.A.G workshops have been simply incredible: 84% of the students asked for more information on opening a bank account; 70% of the students asked for more information on how to create an income opportunity for themselves; 68% of the students asked for additional details on how to maintain a written budget and went on to open bank accounts.

The S.W.A.G initiative has a multitude of external partners, including The Boys and Girls Club of Rensselaer County, The Greater Amsterdam School District, Green Tech High Charter School, Hope 7 Community Center, and The Block Program of Troy NY, as well as several pro basketball players who have signed up as supporters of The Money Ball Challenge. In addition, the S.W.A.G program is currently working with local school districts to offer a required personal finance course for graduation.

In short, the lives of many young people have been irrevocably and positively changed due to LaDonna’s humble and tireless drive to promote early financial literacy. LaDonna embodies the essence of community support and consistently works toward a vision to ensure every young person in her community has the confidence to control their financial future. LaDonna is passionate about financial literacy and continues to spearhead the Capital District’s efforts to promote early financial literacy.

Follow Your Dreams Publishing

Follow Your Dreams Publishing is here to introduce a series of children’s books that children of all backgrounds can enjoy! Our books feature colorful illustrations and characters that are from diverse ethnic and/or cultural backgrounds which have traditionally been under-represented in American children’s literature. We aim to work in partnership with parents, educators and the community to introduce children to books which delight, educate, empower and instill them with a love of reading. LaDonna is also the founder and Editor-In-Chief of Writer's Life Magazine.


LaDonna Smith

Author and Youth Financial Educator