By Tracy Correa Lopez and Joshua Reiman
For the past seven months a group of two dozen Black high school seniors, mostly from Oakland, gathered each Saturday at University of California, Berkeley to learn from top financial experts and instructors.
But on this particular Saturday (May 13), the students celebrated completion of the Economic Equity and Financial Education Pilot Program with each earning a certificate and $8,000 scholarships created and funded by PG&E and The PG&E Corporation Foundation. (See this KTVU news story on the graduation.)
This new, innovative program was designed to provide the students with a crash course on investing and financial planning to help address wealth inequality and decrease the racial wealth gap for Black families.
For Paris Guard, a senior at Oakland’s Castlemont High School, she said she learned things that will benefit not just her, but her entire family now and in the future.
“I’m gaining knowledge to not only share with my family, like the people that are older than me and my elders, but also having information that I can share with future generations after me,” said Guard.
The scholarship, she said, is an added bonus as she prepares to attend California State University, Sacramento this fall to study nursing.
“I really don’t have like a safety net or money put aside for me,” she said. “So, the scholarship will really just help me, or allow me to focus more on my studies rather than how I’m going to work to pay for school.”
The PG&E Foundation partnered 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 for the program that helped prepare the students from Oakland and the Greater Bay Area for future both financial success and academic leadership.
The scholarships for this rigorous academic program that began in October and concluded with the final class on Saturday, will be put to good use: All 24 students have been accepted to college, and some have been accepted to UC Berkeley.
PG&E created the program after two years of planning as a racial justice initiative following the George Floyd tragedy to help address economic challenges faced by Black Americans, and together with The PG&E Foundation provided $500,000 in funding through its community charitable Better Together Giving Program. (Learn more about the program’s creation here.)
The program was conceived by PG&E Community Relations Chief, Jimi Harris.
Harris was one of the speakers at the graduation on Saturday.
“These high school scholars went through a rigorous financial education program that exceeded what they had previously been exposed to,” said Harris. “I am excited to see how they will apply this knowledge as they go off to colleges and universities with scholarships from PG&E and launch the next phases of their inspiring educational journeys.”
Students also heard from PG&E Executive Vice President Carla Peterman, from Haas School of Business Dean Ann Harrison, and Associate Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Marco Lindsay.
Peterman shared her educational journey and career path — including being the first Black female Rhodes Scholar and to serve on the California Energy Commission and California Public Utilities Commission — before landing an executive position at PG&E two years ago. She emphasized what it means to carve a path so that others may follow.
Amare Brown, a senior at Oakland Tech High School who will be attending University of California, San Diego, said what he learned from the program makes him feel more confident about his financial future.
“I think the most valuable thing I’ve learned is investing. How to invest, what it’s like, and you know… if I don’t invest the value of my money will go down. So, it’s a very important part of life, planning my financial future,” said Brown.
He added: “To me, building generational wealth means that I guess my family would be secure and that I can be confident that when I’m gone, they’ll be alright.”
According to the Federal Reserve’s 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 leveraged data from the 2019 survey in developing the Economic Equity and Financial Education Pilot Program.
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