Bonnie Wallace (left) and Dewey Norwood
Bonnie Wallace (left) and Dewey Norwood

Brandi McLean believes that people need financial skills to survive. That’s why she’s made it her mission to educate people about it. McLean, an accountant in Virginia, participated in the nonprofit Society for Financial Education & Professional Development’s (SFE&PD) Student Ambassador Program, which trains college students to teach their peers about personal finance. Thirty-four historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) participate in the program, including Bowie State University, McLean’s alma mater and the first HBCU established in Maryland in 1865.

“If I could describe the program in one word, it would be ‘necessary,’” McLean said. “Personal finance is not discussed in everyday school, and students need it to adapt as adults.”

The Wells Fargo Foundation is the largest funder of the Student Ambassador Program, providing more than $1 million in grants since 2017. This is one way Wells Fargo is working with HBCUs to empower Black students, who disproportionately face greater financial challenges that impact financial growth and wealth creation.

Too many college students graduate without the financial skills needed to navigate complex financial decisions and climb the economic ladder, and this issue disproportionally impacts African American, Black, and other students of color. HBCUs are known for helping generations of Black people achieve academic and professional success, making them ideal collaborators in tackling these issues.

Student ambassadors lead financial workshops on campus and at community outreach events to help their peers build financial capabilities in money and credit management, student loans, budgeting, savings, planning for life after college, and more. Business school professors and SFE&PD representatives mentor ambassadors to create their own lesson plans and interactive activities.

As a creative example, McLean and fellow ambassadors at Bowie State performed a skit about the terms and conditions of a loan. At another school, ambassadors taught their peers about budgeting by relating it to a spring break trip. Ambassadors also integrate resources from Hands on Banking®, Wells Fargo’s free, non-commercial online learning program offering money management lessons and resources in English and Spanish, into their sessions.

You can read more about the Student Ambassador Program in this Wells Fargo Stories article: https://stories.

In a complementary effort, the Wells Fargo Foundation collaborated with the HBCU Community Development Action Coalition to develop and launch Our Money Matters, a $5.6 million comprehensive financial wellness initiative. Our Money Matters is developing, supporting, and scaling access to financial education and sound financial practices for students at HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), as well as customers of minority depository institutions (MDIs).

The initiative aims to equip more than 35,000 students and community members with financial capability skills, personalized tools for managing finances and student loans, and access to support services like career closets and emergency financial assistance. Since it began in 2021, Our Money Matters has engaged 17 HBCUs/MSIs, with thousands of students and community residents using the resources on its platform.

For over 11 years, Wells Fargo has invested more than $32 million in scholarships and programming to HBCUs via UNCF, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), and the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Wells Fargo funds programs like TMCF’s Leadership Institute, which develops students’ leadership skills, and UNCF’s Empower Me Tour, which helps students prepare for college and their careers. Additionally, Wells Fargo’s virtual learning program, the Beyond College Webinar Series – covers a wide variety of topics for HBCU students from personal finance to professional development.

Through our work with nonprofit partners who bring a deep under- standing of HBCUs, we aim to help equip the next generation with the financial knowledge, tools, access, and opportunities to close the racial wealth gap.

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