Community Spotlight: ABCD Shows Boston Students the Path to Financial Freedom

A summer cohort of ABCD's YEA! students. Photo courtesy of Action for Boston Community Development
Ninth grade is often a time of anxiety and transition—students find themselves sliding into adulthood and are not quite there yet. All of this transition happening while navigating the angst and complexities of high school. It’s also the year, according to statistics from the Department of Education, when students are most likely to drop out of school—currently, it hovers around six percent.

Beyond the psychological and emotional components of the school environment, a financial component comes into play in retaining young minds. "A number of marginalized households are dealing with the very real cost of living day to day. Our young people are, unfortunately, faced with the hard reality of how to help support their family. The pressure to keep a roof over their heads, food in the refrigerator and the heat and lights on really is a heavy weight. It’s hard for these students also to take on the added expectation of preparing for college," says Angelina Camacho, Program Manager, Financial Futures Initiative of Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD). Each year, the nonprofit organization provides more than 100,000 low-income Boston-area residents with a range of tools and resources through its Financial Futures Initiative—from education about the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to financial literacy workshops—to transition from financial insecurity to stability and success.

Giving vulnerable youth the support and confidence to stick with school starts with, "addressing their fears and identifying their hope and vision," Camacho says. To help accomplish this, Capital One facilitated a partnership between ABCD and Junior Achievement of Northern New England for the Youth Engaged in Action (YEA!) program. "Together, there's a very clear focus on social justice in direct response to the economic insecurity that is vastly plaguing a number of residents in our city," Camacho says of the partnership.

YEA!’s three-week summer program helps young people envision what their future could look like as an employee or entrepreneur, encourages knowledge of and advocacy in their local government and details the importance of financial wellness. "It really gets them excited about how they're going to earn the money they want in the future, and it makes the connection about how education will make that possible—and what type of education they need at 13," Camacho says.

Financial learnings include basics like what a budget involves, as well as exploration of Boston’s work and entrepreneurial worlds. "They visit the State House or City Hall, but we also bring community leaders to meet with them. That could be someone who works in the police department or someone who owns a business and has a very strong stake in the neighborhood. We might take a walk by businesses in the area so students can visualize the different types of things they can do," Camacho says.

At the program’s conclusion, each student is given a $100 pre-paid debit card to put their financial learnings into real-world action and navigate first-hand the pleasures and pitfalls of being responsible consumers. "The influence that our kids have early in their teen years is heavy and ever present with our local families; they are becoming more independent consumers. Our young people not only take the lessons for themselves and become more encouraged about their education in school, but they also take those lessons home," Camacho says. Special events, such as a workshop on family banking hosted at a Capital One Café, bring parents into the fold to further facilitate open conversations about earning money and managing household finances.

The following summer, ABCD helps to place age-eligible students in summer work opportunities through its WorkSMART program at places like local daycares, summer camps, health centers and arts and community outreach organizations. As a result, "we’re seeing them become engaged in community activities where they may not have been before," Camacho says. "There is more of a sense of their place in the household. I find that to be a microcosm of the lesson they need to learn to navigate the community at large. How do I become a good citizen? How do I become a good employee? How do I advocate for things that I see that are wrong in my community? A lot of those things happen within the YEA! program."

For more information on Capital One’s community efforts, visit capitaloneinvestingforgood.com

[Photo credit: Courtesy of Action for Boston Community Development]

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