Start early with financial literacy

By John Railey

David Moore, who has seen the effects of generational poverty firsthand in East Winston, is determined to reverse it. Her latest step is an initiative that gives elementary and middle school girls an introduction to financial literacy.

“I want them to understand why they should have a bank statement and track their money,” Moore said. “Financial education, how to use their money and build credit, so that one day they can buy their own house. They learn financial responsibility.

Moore pioneered financial education through his MOORE Project, located just off Martin Luther King Drive. The MOORE Project is supported by Winston-Salem State University’s Center for the Study of Economic Mobility (CSEM), which shares David Moore’s focus on reversing generational poverty, including through home ownership.

Financial literacy is key to home ownership, say homebuyer advocates. Although not publicized enough, there are many local financial education opportunities for adults. Economics and personal finance are now taught in public high schools, but the MOORE project initiative reaches young students.

Moore realized the need last fall by launching an after-school initiative for girls, Tiny Creators, at the MOORE Project. The work is part of the MOORE project’s overall mission to help at-risk youth by launching them into training for careers in music, cosmetology, and barbering. Lately it has also focused on gun violence reduction, aligning itself with CSEM in this regard. Moore launched Tiny Creators in response to this violence, to give the girls in the program, aged 11 to 14, a safe place to learn and play.

Tiny Creators encourages academic achievement and teaches basic cosmetology. As an incentive, Moore promised each girl who made the honor roll $100. “These girls have befriended each other, helping each other with homework,” he said. “In the fall semester, six of the 10 girls in the program made the honor roll.”

Moore was proud. He also saw an opportunity. He had previously given the girls $50 biweekly stipends for their participation in the program and had opened bank accounts for them at the Winston-Salem Federal Credit Union. As the girls deposited some of their $100 rewards for making the honor roll, Moore decided to step up the financial education portion, enlisting Antonia Imes and Rovia Hall for the hands-on lessons.

“We teach them how to budget their money,” Imes said. “They have accounts that they put money in, a supplement for honors students, so they can save. So they will have money for college and houses, whatever they need.

Hall said, “We teach them to spend wisely and save money.”

Imes met David Moore through his work to reduce gang and gun violence. There were 44 homicides in Winston-Salem last year, a 52% increase from 29 homicides in 2020, the Winston-Salem Journal recently reported. Most homicides last year involved firearms, and there were more than one 100 assaults with firearms.

The MOORE Project and CSEM realize that armed violence, in addition to its heavy human costs, also has heavy financial costs. Students and parents under stress may find it difficult to concentrate at school and at work. As CSEM Associate Director Alvin Atkinson put it, “feeling safe in one’s home should be a given, not a luxury for those living in well-resourced neighborhoods.”

CSEM participated in the Winston-Salem revival of the My Brother’s/Sister’s Keeper initiative, of which the Action 4 Equity group is becoming the community coordinator. The initiative will join efforts to reduce gun violence. A new local initiative, the Women’s Gun Violence Prevention Team, is also on the case. The Forsyth County Cure Violence Program, by way of coordination, surveys local nonprofits about their anti-violence efforts.

All of this is linked to economic mobility and youth, and financial education can be an important part of this.

“I feel like this program is so necessary for girls,” Imes said. To see it grow, you have to invest in what you believe in: children.

John Railey, [email protected], is CSEM’s writer-in-residence,

Louis R. Hancock