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Tag: Impact

Taking Financial Learning Beyond the Classroom


Lending Circles round out the Game Theory Academy Experience

Jasmine and Pasha’s friendship began during childhood, when the two girls were elementary school classmates. Eventually they were assigned to different middle schools, and they lost touch. But the two young women shared a deep commitment to their educations and their futures. It was this quality that would reunite them and that would ultimately lead them to join Game Theory Academy’s first Lending Circle.

Their reunion was unexpected and unplanned. In 2015, when Jasmine and Pasha were in their senior years at two different Oakland high schools, they both enrolled in “Make Your Decisions Count,” a class on financial decision-making with the Oakland nonprofit Game Theory Academy (GTA). They resumed their friendship as if no time had passed and began parallel learning journeys that would prepare them for lifelong financial security.

GTA’s mission is to equip young people with the decision-making skills and economic opportunities needed to achieve financial stability in adulthood. In “Make Your Decisions Count,” Jasmine and Pasha practiced slowing down their decision-making process and carefully considering the pros and cons of each step. They cultivated the habit of pausing before acting and considering the questions, “What’s in my best interest? And what do I need to know before I decide?”

Jasmine and Pasha knew these skills would aid them tremendously in important future decisions, such as selecting the best bank or making a plan to pay for college. But a key to Jasmine and Pasha’s success – and their ongoing engagement with GTA – was the opportunity to put their newly acquired financial skills into practice. They did this first through GTA’s internship program, and eventually through Lending Circles.

After completing Make Your Decisions Count, both Jasmine and Pasha became interns with WOW Farm, GTA’s urban farming and business program. They were eager for the chance to apply their new skills to a real business. And on a practical level, they both needed the job experience.

Pasha spoke to the value of learning and doing:

“By getting the GTA paychecks, we experience how to save it, budget it, take out $40 each time you get a check. You can talk the talk and walk the walk.”

Jasmine and Pasha successfully completed their internships and graduated from high school. But their learning wasn’t over: they both immediately enrolled in GTA’s “Crash Course in Job Readiness.” While many young adults who do not go directly to college get caught in a chaotic web of disconnected or stagnant activities, these two impressive young women refused to lose focus. They remained committed to their goals and took advantage of all GTA had to offer.

Jasmine and Pasha were skeptical of Lending Circles when the program first began at GTA. Jasmine, for example, was uneasy with the emphasis on credit. The only way she knew to build credit was with a credit card, and she wisely thought of credit cards as risky for young people without steady incomes.

But Lending Circles provided her with a way to build credit that she trusted. She described her comfort with the program: “You don’t have to worry about going over your credit limit since it’s always a set amount.” Pasha was similarly wary of credit cards. But at the same time, she recognized that not having a credit score would prove to be a barrier:

“You need a credit score to get a car, to do a lot of things. When you turn 18 and you’re about to go to college, all the banks send you credit card offers and sometimes the APR is really high and that can you mess up.”

For many young adults without much experience with formal financial transactions, the Lending Circles commitment can seem intimidating (a regular monthly payment!) and its value abstract (credit score, what?). But Pasha and Jasmine drew on their strong foundation in financial education to consider the benefits of the program. And more importantly, they had built a trusting relationship with GTA over the course of their participation in programs. So they took a chance and joined a Lending Circle.

The program was a success. Both Jasmine and Pasha began with no credit history at all — not uncommon for 18-year-olds. Now they each have a credit score over 650, which is 30 points higher than the average Millennial.

But a Lending Circle is more than a credit-building tool — it’s akin to a crash course in money management: participants have to save for a goal, repay a loan, plan ahead, and manage auto-pay transactions.

Thanks to Lending Circles, Jasmine and Pasha do not have to learn about credit the common way– by making mistakes that are hard to reverse. They’ve been able to build their credit safely, and with it, to build the foundations for a future of financial security.

Game Theory Academy’s ultimate goal is to equip young people with the knowledge and confidence they need to navigate what are often mystifying and high-stakes financial decisions.

Lending Circles are still gaining traction with GTA’s youth. But in a short time, the program has already gone a long way to deepen the organization’s financial capability services. GTA’s existing financial education modules expose young people to topics they don’t learn in school, and Lending Circles provide the opportunity to put what they learn into practice.

Jasmine now studies Mathematics at Chabot College, works at a popular restaurant in Oakland’s Uptown, and interns with a bookkeeper. Pasha has a role in community affairs with a construction company and studies at Merritt College. They are graduating from Game Theory Academy with what every young adult needs and deserves: strong skills in financial and strategic decision-making, extensive job readiness training, solid work experience, and a fantastic credit score.

Like most of us, they don’t know exactly what’s next. But they are well-prepared for whatever it may be.

***

Jasmin Dial, the author of this post, ran student engagement at Game Theory Academy from 2014-2016, including the launch and implementation of Lending Circles. She holds a B.A. from University of California at Berkeley and currently studies Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

NCLR Presents MAF with the 2015 Family Strengthening Award


This recognition from NCLR helps us pave the way toward a fair financial marketplace for hardworking families

KANSAS CITY, Mo.—At the National Affiliate Luncheon held today at the 2015 NCLR Annual Conference in Kansas City, Mo., NCLR (National Council of La Raza) recognized two community-based organizations that belong to the NCLR Affiliate Network for their outstanding efforts to empower Latino families and broaden opportunities available to them. This year’s awardees are Mission Asset Fund in San Francisco and Guadalupe Centers, Inc. in Kansas City, Mo.

“We are honoring Mission Asset Fund and Guadalupe Centers at the 2015 NCLR Annual Conference for work that has transformed the lives of young Latinos and their families. Their dedication and success strengthen our entire community,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR. “We applaud these exemplary organizations and their innovative approach to helping the Hispanic communities in Kansas City and San Francisco gain access to safe credit and affordable health care.”

Presented annually, the NCLR Family Strengthening Awards honor two NCLR-affiliated community-based organizations for their commitment to bolstering the success and strength of the Hispanic community through a combination of programs and services. Each recipient receives a $5,000 cash award to further their work in the community and their partnership with NCLR.

Founded in 2007, Mission Asset Fund works to create a fair financial marketplace for hardworking and low-income families who lack the access and resources to reach their financial goals. The organization was recognized for its innovative Lending Circles program, a zero-interest credit-building social loans program designed to help weave low-income families into the financial mainstream. The program enables participants to build credit scores and credit histories and achieve financial stability.

“We are thrilled to be chosen as this year’s recipient of the NCLR Family Strengthening Award,” said Jose Quinonez, CEO of Mission Asset Fund. “This recognition from NCLR helps us pave the way toward a fair financial marketplace for hardworking families in the U.S. Together, we expand access to thousands of credit invisibles across the country, ensuring they aren’t stuck with predatory loans from payday lenders and instead are building on the strengths of their community to take the next financial steps in their lives.”

Established nearly a century ago in 1919, Guadalupe Centers, Inc. in Kansas City, Mo., is the oldest operating community-based organization for Latinos in the United States. Enhancing the quality of life for Hispanics through a comprehensive set of educational, social, recreational and cultural services, Guadalupe Centers, Inc. is improving the lives of Latino families. The group was recognized for its launch of the Guadalupe Educational Systems, a charter school program that provides a rigorous and enriching learning experience for Latino K–12 students. Through this program, Guadalupe Centers, Inc. is helping remedy the educational gaps affecting Kansas City Latinos and empowering young students to reach their full potential.

“Throughout 96 years of service, Guadalupe Centers, Inc. has provided educational programs for the Latino community. We appreciate the collaboration with NCLR in these endeavors and are honored to receive this recognition,” said Cris Medina, CEO, Guadalupe Centers, Inc.

NCLR—the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. For more information on NCLR, please visit www.nclr.org or follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

Donor Spotlight on Robby Pinkard


Robby is passionate about energy and sustainability. Find out why he was inspired to be a MAF donor.

Introducing our Donor Spotlight series, where we share a little about one of our Social Investors and thank them for taking action to support the financial empowerment of communities through credit-building.

MEET ROBBY

A Trinity grad, Robby works in energy research with the Royal Bank of Canada. Last year, he and his wife moved from Austin to San Francisco. Robby has come to love San Francisco’s staircases on hills, food and culture.

Even as a new resident, he started to notice how rapidly San Francisco’s neighborhoods are changing and gentrifying. Because of this reality, he knew that it would be imperative to invest in the right kinds of support for the city’s lower-income individuals.

Every year, Robby and his wife pick different local organizations to support and get involved with. His interests in finance, policy and the environment motivate him to think constantly about how to make positive change. After he heard about MAF on Marketplace and walked by our old office on Valencia, he did something unusual.

Before he decided to invest, he wanted to meet us first. So last year, we had the opportunity to sit down with Robby, find out about where he grew up (DC), share with him our favorite neighborhood events (Dia de Los Muertos) and talk about our vision for the future.

A few months later, we got word that Robby decided to donate to MAF (and was able to double it with the Royal Bank’s employee matching program!). He told us that he felt Lending Circles was a great antidote to a growing citywide problem.

We recently gave Robby a call to ask him – “Wait, why did you donate to MAF?” He told us: “When I think of charitable giving, I want to make a sustainable impact.”

Because the idea of building people’s credit, helping them start businesses and taking care of their finances so that they can give back to the community is something he believes will make a lasting impact.

When we talked to Robby last year, we were knee deep in a website redesign. Now, with an active blog (and editorial calendar to match), we just had to ask him for some feedback.

Out of curiosity, we asked, “Wait, can you tell us what you think we are doing well? Or what do you want to hear more about?” Robby didn’t hesitate.

He said he loved hearing about how members are using Lending Circles and checking out our website for statistics on our program impact. We invite you, our readers, to check out his favorites today.

Thank you Robby for the talk and for choosing to invest in MAF and in the future of hardworking families in San Francisco and beyond.

Join Robby and Give Credit today!

The Credit Catch 22

There’s always a catch. With credit, there’s a Catch 22! It’s too easy for hardworking people to get stuck in this Credit Catch 22. For example, if you want to build a great credit history, you have to have lines of credit. But in order to be approved for lines of credit, you have to show a history of repaying credit. Thus the credit catch 22!

Without a long credit, residential or banking history, you’re more likely to get stuck in this Credit Catch 22.

This is a real problem our clients run into when they want to get an apartment or a credit card but have no file or a very thin one. When a lender does an inquiry to find out if a person qualifies for a loan, that actually lowers the chance of being approved.Without a long credit, residential or banking history, you’re more likely to get stuck in this Credit Catch 22.

We want to help everyone get over feeling stuck, strapped or invisible.That’s why MAF offers products that give clients a responsible line of credit with our social loans and the financial education to finally escape and live a secure, empowered life. The infographic below lays out how the credit catch 22 works and some evidence of the phenomenon from our own members’ experiences.