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Local nonprofit The Chappaqua Summer Scholarship Program (CSSP), recently partnered with Pockets Change, is hosting a workshop this Wednesday, July 10, to offer teens a novel way to look at money and teach them the fundamentals in regards to financial literacy and resilience.
Beginning at 1 p.m., teens from four high schools across the Bronx will join Pockets Change executive director and co-founder Andrea Ferrero and curriculum developer Dyalekt in a CSSP workshop to explore their personal relationships with money, saving, and spending habits.
Celebrating 50 years in operation, CSSP assists students from under-resourced high schools in the Bronx with preparation for college and exposure to future career options. This workshop aims to enlighten students on innovative ways to earn money based on their personal strengths and interests.
By partnering with Pockets Change, an organization that seeks creative ways to empower students to be diligent about their financial paths, CSSP has built financial resilience into their programming as part of promoting the importance of career and life skills.
We sat down with Ferrero ahead of the workshop to get some insight into what to expect.
Why do you feel it is important to financially educate young people?
Andrea Ferrero: I think it’s still a taboo topic. It’s not being addressed in most schools. Parents are more comfortable talking with their kids about sex, drugs, and even terrorism than money. It’s a topic that we all deal with day-to-day, yet we’re not talking about it and we’re not using each other as resources so that we can feel more comfortable, confident, and capable with money.
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I feel like it’s really important to start that at a young age. Pocket Change works with kids as young as 6 years old all the way up through college age. Many of them have a personal relationship with money starting around 7 years old, and that carries on to how we see and interact with money through adulthood.
We try and address that through engaging activities and what really sets us apart in finance education is that we’re looking at your personal identity, your personal relationship with money, and then how that carries into your habits and your activities and capabilities with finances out in the world.
What are some specific aspects of your program that you feel will play a role in educating youth?
We do surveys on each community, so the workshop that we have coming up in Chappaqua for the high schoolers that are coming out from the Bronx is going to be focused on spending values — how you’re spending your money — and is that aligned with your values?
We do a sorting-type activity where we look at where your money is already going and how can you wind that? Your spending is a representation of what you value, so finding ways to align your spending with the things that you value and truly make space for the things that feed you — emotionally and for your future opportunities.
We’ll also be covering saving with the kids. It’s practically a savings account, but we call it the “Yes Box.” It’s being able to say ‘yes’ to your future self and to your future opportunities. All of the highschoolers are going to be identifying something that they want to save for the future and creating an action plan to work towards that.
All of that comes back to, again, our personal relationship with money and our personal tendencies. We use Hip-Hop Pedagogy, which is all about your personal identity, your community relationships, and advocating for yourself through strong communication that’s rooted in your understanding of yourself, your self-awareness, and self-advocacy. We’re going to take all of those skills and at the end of the day together, we’re going to be creating a pitch for a way that they can earn money using their strengths.
How can kids “earn money based on personal strength and interests”?
That kind of depends for each individual student. We’ve had a group of four girls just this past summer that created a dog-walking business. Their strength is that they’re really good with animals, they’re passionate about collaborating with friends, and they’ve been running that for two summers now. They’re getting ready to go into their third. Each year they have different goals about how much they want to make and how many clients they want to serve.
We also have students who are really passionate about art so they create a pitch, say, to draw avatars for other kids so they can use them for their social media profiles. We’ll help them set price points for that. Through the exercise they are actually looking at “How can I make a thing, how can I provide a service, how can I teach a thing?” then brainstorming and actually creating an action plan for it so they can do it sometime within the next year.
Photo courtesy Andrea Ferrero
Is there hope for students of any socioeconomic class to earn money so that they can delve in a true college career?
Yes and that is part of Pockets Change’s Mission; to really work across communities to build financial resilience. Financial literacy tends to be the buzzword but literacy is just having an understanding of the financial basics.
What we really want is to have all of our kids have the know-how and the capability and the confidence to handle obstacles that come up, to have that resilience, to navigate for themselves the decision-making and advocate for themselves out in the world.
They are going to be dealing with systems that often times are not equitable and we need to bring awareness to that, but also work together to work towards our goal and part of that is starting these money conversations within the workshop and then continuing them with peers, with families, with communities, so that you can continue to build and advocate for yourself and have that financial resilience.
Where would you say most of your participants are coming from? In other words, is there diversity in this program?
Chappaqua is a specific partnership. Those kids are actually part of a cohort and they get to work together for three years, and they get continuing support when they pass on into college, which is an incredible opportunity and a program that has been nested within that community for about 50 years in partnership with Chappaqua and the Bronx.
We even have college-aged students coming back able to mentor and provide suggestions to the current teens who are still in high school.
With Pockets Change operating for so long, can you tell me about some success stories you have seen that might perhaps motivate others to involve themselves in the program you have going on here?
One of our students, who we see three times a year is part of a foster care program on the West Coast and she started working with us when she was 13, almost 14. She just graduated high school, she is in college, and she is actually volunteering now and teaching peer mentoring within the community, teaching kids financial literacy and financial resilience skills.
So she has taken it full circle for herself, in her community, and now she’s taken that further to help the next generation of kids as they reach for their goals.
What motivated you to start this type of program?
I grew up on the Navajo and Hopi reservation in Arizona and I went to a school where I didn’t have access to this kind of programming. We didn’t get life skills, extra support, and we barely had textbooks and other things to get by.
Really seeing how that influenced my friends and my self-experience going out into the world … we learn things often by making mistakes and fumbling and trying to figure it out along the way, and wanting to go back into our communities and be able to help others by starting younger and realizing the power of being able to have access and opportunity — really trying to change the way that education works; to be more equitable, especially with personal finance.
What it is really about is being able to change our paths to reach our goals and doing that by really focusing on personal values, our personal identity, and our community strength and then building up from there.
What do you hope is the main message or skill students take away from your workshop?
The big thing I want them to take away is that they have these skills within them and to keep having these money conversations as they continue on towards their future goals, doing the amazing things that they are already doing, and to have those money conversations to feel empowered to advocate for themselves.