Disrupting Poverty with Inclusive Financial Capability

On a Saturday morning in Seattle, a group of volunteers in red shirts work together to set up an oversized jenga game and blow up dozens of inflatable beach balls, but they aren’t prepping for a party: they’re getting ready to teach financial literacy. In Atlanta, a hometown hero raps about his bank account and meets with Juma youth to share how banking has played an important role in his financial health. In Sacramento, local credit union volunteers provide a space for questions and an opportunity to compare financial products. At Juma, it starts with a job, but a paycheck is only the beginning of a larger conversation about financial goals and the many avenues to reach them. At our sites across the country, we approach financial literacy in a variety of ways to create fun and inclusive programming which caters to the needs of local youth and takes advantage of local partners and opportunities.

In Seattle, financial capability and fun collide with the “My Life, My Card, my Credit” Conference; an event designed by a team of Juma youth in partnership with volunteers from Bank of America and Juma program staff. At the conference, youth cycle through various stations playing games like Credit Facts Dodgeball and Giant Jenga, with each activity designed to teach credit building skills and competencies. “One thing Juma is always thinking about is how to meet youth where they’re at. In this case, it was gamifying something that, on the surface, doesn’t sound super appealing. And it’s been incredibly successful,” says Ren Gooch, who worked with youth to facilitate the first conference in 2017.

On the opposite side of the country, Juma Atlanta presents 21st Century Banking sessions in a traditional mode with a modern twist: encouragement from rapper 21 Savage. The artist, who grew up in Atlanta before achieving worldwide fame, released his hit song, Bank Account, in 2017. The song and 21 Savage’s activism with local youth paved the way for a partnership with Juma and Get Schooled, a nonprofit dedicated to giving youth the tools and education they need to be inspired and succeed. This year, 21 Savage collaborated with Juma and Get Schooled to record a video encouraging youth to take financial capability seriously. He also worked with Juma staff to create a list of his top twenty-one tips for financial health. In March, 21 Savage made a personal appearance at a Juma Atlanta financial workshop. He has also pledged a donation of $15,000 to encourage Juma Atlanta youth to save money in a dedicated savings account by matching a portion of their savings.

Back on the West Coast in Sacramento, we have an amazing wealth of organizations such as Youth Finances Sacramento, Wells Fargo and Bank of the West who want to help with this work. Because of that, alongside our financial literacy workshops, Sacramento is also piloting a program through which Juma youth have the opportunity to work one on one with a dedicated financial mentor. We’re able to offer youth small class sizes and give youth a chance to ask questions and work with volunteers one-on-one.

Juma’s work in promoting the financial capabilities of young adults across all our cities is ultimately a pursuit of financial inclusion,” says Juma National Program Director, Noah Halton. “We believe the best means of inclusion will vary according to the local and unique resources of those locations. So be it a stand out credit union, local celebrity, a partnership, platform, or event, Juma will get involved to learn how those opportunities can promote the skills needed to disrupt the cycle of poverty. Given Juma’s national footprint, we are able to leverage the best practices across locations to continually redefine our own strategies and co-advocate for financial capability work for youth across America. ”