Investing in Our Communities: New Program Provides Financial Education, Mentorship, and College Scholarships to Help Close Racial Wealth Gap
In an effort to address wealth inequality and the racial wealth gap affecting African Americans, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and The PG&E Corporation Foundation (The Foundation) are partnering with the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley and Berkeley Executive Education, Mills College at Northeastern University, and Amenti Capital Group to prepare African American Oakland and Greater Bay Area high school students for future financial success and academic leadership.
The Economic Equity and Financial Education Pilot Program is a two-semester course on advanced financial education taught at the Haas School of Business. The 25 students who successfully complete this rigorous academic program will be awarded college scholarships of at least $7,000.
High school senior Otis Ward is looking forward to taking part in the program and qualifying for a scholarship.
“Opportunities such as the PG&E scholarship are essential, especially for Black Oakland students that are underserved within our community. I’m really excited for this program as it can be a stepping stone for fellow young Black youth from my West Oakland community who are striving for post-secondary education, just like myself,” said Ward, who attends McClymonds High School in Oakland.
PG&E created the program, and together with The Foundation is providing $500,000 in funding through its community charitable Better Together Giving Program.
Students will take courses taught by Haas School of Business professors and financial industry professionals on topics including personal finance, capital markets and wealth creation, financial data analysis and investments. African American Haas undergraduates also will offer mentorship opportunities to the students.
Mills College at Northeastern University TRIO Programs recruited the 25 student participants as part of the Upward Bound program — which helps underserved high school students and first in their families attending college to succeed — and the Mills Educational Talent Search — which supports high school students so that they can achieve their higher education goals.
The curriculum was developed in collaboration with professor Panos N. Patatoukas from Haas School of Business and Jason Miles, an African American venture capitalist with more than 25 years of experience in the financial services industry and founder of Amenti Capital Group.
Both Patatoukas and Miles note the unique opportunity of this program for participating students.
“While technology has been transforming education in profound ways, access to financial education remains within the reach of only a few. Mitigating the problem of access inequality and addressing the wealth gap in the African American community has been the driving force of our joint efforts with PG&E,” Patatoukas said. “We are excited to make financial education more accessible, and we are committed to continue to foster diverse, equitable, and inclusive learning environments. I am looking forward to welcoming the first group of Oakland and Bay Area students as part of this impactful program.”
“There is a tremendous pool of talented students who represent shining examples of future African American leaders. They must be empowered with practical investing tools and knowledge about risk-return trade-offs early in their lives. We are energized by this unique opportunity to catalyze generational wealth creation alongside like-minded partners,” said Miles.
According to Disparities in Wealth by Race and Ethnicity 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances, the typical white family has eight times the wealth of a typical Black family. The survey cites a number of complex societal factors across generations, including how individual savings and investment decisions contribute to wealth accumulation.
PG&E developed the new program after two years of planning as a racial justice initiative following the George Floyd tragedy to help address economic challenges faced by African Americans.
“At PG&E, we are focused on our Triple Bottom Line of serving people, planet and California’s prosperity. However, we know that our African American customers and communities face significant challenges achieving economic parity in society, and the racial wealth gap contributes to inequality. This pilot program is a meaningful step to change that and help more African Americans achieve prosperity and generational wealth,” said Jimi Harris, PG&E Community Relations Chief and program creator.
While the program is designed to provide wealth creation tools through an advanced financial education curriculum for high school students, it is also designed to support post-secondary education achievement through scholarships for program participants, funded by PG&E. Additionally, if the program proves successful, it could serve as a model for other programs to be created including in high school education.
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