Friday, July 7, 2017

Positive Youth Development


It’s Economic Empowerment Day --“We’re here to cash a check!”

Students at Chicago's Ariel Community Academy are breaking an historic cycle by learning to earn.

By Eric Stradford, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired

AMWS, July 8, 2017, Atlanta – It’s Black Economic Empowerment Day in Georgia, a moment to reflect on past efforts and chart an inclusive course toward the future for historically disadvantaged Americans.  Here and across the United States, new models for economic inclusion are emerging to make business as usual a practice of the past.

Cynthia Day, President and CEO, is the first woman to hold the post and the chief steward for the publicly traded Citizens Bancshares Corp (CZBS).  Day follows a lineage dating back to its founder Heman Perry and it’s first president Henry C. Dugas.   Perry and four other partners (collectively known as the"Fervent Five") formed Citizens Trust Bank after Perry attempted to be fitted for a pair of socks at a white-owned store and was refused.

The birth of Citizens Trust Bank on August 16, 1921 signaled an audacity of hope after some 300 African Americans lost life and livelihood in Tulsa, OK on Black Wall Street just months earlier. 

Youth Achievers USA Institute, a 501c3 public charity is banking on the shared history of financial institutions such as Atlanta’s Citizens Trust and Chicago’s Ariel Investments to join forces in building on the future by restoring generations of trust.

In Atlanta, students learn to make wise financial decisions with Financial Independence Training.  The program includes practical lessons on the importance of saving, even small amounts, regularly by budgeting as a means of achieving financial goals; basic investments; and how to navigate electronic banking, including ATMs, debit/check cards, chip-enabled cards, online banking, online bill paying, mobile banking, and mobile text banking correctly and safely.

Ariel Community Academy (ACA), a public school located on the south side of Chicago, offers classes from kindergarten through eighth grade serving 518 students and their families. Ninety-eight percent of the student body is African-American and over 85 percent of the students receive subsidized lunches. ACA promotes a model community school — where the doors are always open; where teachers, parents and members of the community work in partnership to provide world-class educational opportunities and where financial literacy is not just taught but practiced.

Youth Achievers USA Institute hopes to engage youth in Atlanta, Chicago and other markets as economic beneficiaries to a financial trust maintained at Ariel Investments and accessed through partnering financial institutions. Free on-line FDIC Money Smart Financial Literacy promotes LEARN-2-EARN opportunities where emerging entrepreneurs engage caring adults as equity stakeholders in the “whole village.”

Enterprises such as Citizens Trust have served African-American communities for the past 125 years. The crucial role these banks play in the economy is evidenced by their sustained presence. Community development banks have 67 percent of all their branches in economically disadvantaged communities, compared to 17 percent for the overall banking sector. More than that, nearly $46 of every $100 that community development banks lend goes to borrowers in economically distressed communities, compared to about 16 percent for the overall banking industry, according to information collected under the Federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.

Opening a savings and checking account may very well require perseverance as well as purse.  A confident and seemingly competent Aina Ince met an optimistic Stephanie A. Stradford at the Cascade Avenue Branch of Citizens Trust Bank.  Mrs. Stradford, CEO of YouthUSA, was there in support of a “Bank-In” launched by members of the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta, Inc. in partnership with other community leaders and organizations.

Stradford first landed in Atlanta back in 1998 as Generation Xers and Millennials called for a “God-Centered” Million Youth Movement.   Twenty years after she first presented Money-n-the-Bank in Georgia, the Chief Executive Officer for Youth Achievers USA Institute, found herself at destiny’s doorstep, challenged by remnant factions of a “Beloved Community” to “cash a check.”  Stradford meets with clergy and community leaders throughout the six state Atlanta Federal Reserve Region, sharing insights on helping American youth from low income families be less poor.

Community leaders connecting through Greenlight Think Tank and similar initiatives are constantly reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King’s thought-provoking title, “Where do we go from here?  The National Urban League, for the last 41 years has published one of the most highly-anticipated benchmarks and sources for thought leadership around racial equality in America across economics, employment, education, health, housing, criminal justice and civic participation.

The State of Black America® includes the National Equality Index™, a quantitative tool for tracking racial equality in America.  Now in its 13th edition of the Black-White Index, the report is in its eighth edition of the Hispanic-White Index.  However, one truth remains about economic equality.  It begins with intentional community engagement that results in increased Money-n-the-Bank.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Your American Dream: From Poverty To Pentecost

By Eric Stradford, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired

AMWS, June 4, 2017, Virtual – One man’s take on poverty is fueling national debate on the future of the agency he heads.  Dr. Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said recently that poverty is a “state of mind” children learn from their parents, and that a “certain mindset” contributes to people living in poverty.

Critics quickly pushed back on the retired neurosurgeon’s assessment, offering evidence of systemic realities contributing to the “condition where people's basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter are not being met.”  Whether you rely on absolute or relative measures, poor is poor.  And, changing poor to not poor in America means adjusting somebody's “state of mind.” 

Each year, Christians around the world revisit that historic event recorded in Acts 2.  The spiritual event known as Pentecost, addressed historically unmet needs with a rather unique application of economic inclusion.  “And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything with each other, selling their possessions and dividing with those in need.”  

As one in 2.1 billion Christians, Dr. Ben Carson may be today’s best hope for laying “gifted hands” on a diseased mindset.  Redirecting H.U.D. from the bureaucratic maze it has become, to a systemic countermeasure for #EconomicInclusion is going to take a miracle—the kind of miracle believers encountered in Acts 2. 

Almost 50 million people in the U.S. are poor using what folks call the supplemental measure, compared to the 47 million using the official measure. Some five million Americans attribute their economic sustainability to food stamps rather than the grace of God. Depending on the news you choose to believe, children represent some 23.1 percent of the total population and 33.6 percent of people in poverty.  Jesus valued these community assets in his remark, “For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Business sources tend to approach the poverty problem in terms of absolute or relative.  Relative poverty occurs when people do not enjoy a certain minimum level of living standards. Absolute poverty is synonymous with destitution and occurs when people cannot obtain adequate calories or nutrition to sustain their physical health.

History presents evidence of success for eradicating absolute poverty.  The “state of mind” theory referred to by Carson, has been rejected throughout American history.  Whether it was Richard Allen joint venturing with Dr. Benjamin Rush to counter Yellow Fever, Hosea Williams teaming up with Martin Luther King to feed hungry folks or Barack Obama sharing history with Brother Joe Biden as “My Brother’s Keeper,” Americans almost always choose chaos over community.

“Compassion Capital” branded a George W. Bush era application to engage communities of faith in a national vision of collective work and responsibility.  The term, collective work and responsibility, is not new.  Research shows that this term is attributed to Day 3 of the Kwanzaa Observation, between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, known as Ujima.  It means to build and maintain our community together and to make our brother's and sister's problems, our problems and to solve them together.

Once upon a time, a $30 million Compassion Capital Fund (CCF) represented the first appropriated federal funds specifically targeted to assist grassroots organizations.  This fund expanded a 1996 Clinton era program initially established in H.U.D. as the agency’s faith-based and community initiative.

The intent of CCF was to expand the role that faith-based and community groups play in providing social services to those in need. The policy recognized that faith-based and community organizations are uniquely situated to partner with the government in serving poor and low-come individuals and families, particularly those with the greatest needs such as families in poverty, prisoners reentering the community and their families, children of prisoners, homeless families, and at-risk youth.

Older narratives confirm the disease of disbelief in pursuit of common vision.  In each era from the healing ministry of Jesus the Christ to the modern-day housing ministry of Ben Carson, a “national amnesia” inhibits forward movement. And, the American Dream, to some remains a dream deferred.  If the preacher invests the time, the believer will see the money it takes to close this latest chapter on poverty. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Whole Village Getting Through "The Process"

Story and Photo By DeLon M. Stradford, American Mentor

AMWS, April 22, 2017, Cleveland, OH – Today, when someone asked me if "I  believe I can achieve whatever I believe I can achieve?”  I answer,  "yes," without hesitation. 

This caring adult ran into a few bumps in the road, especially in meeting and overcoming the challenge, "Say it with enthusiasm; Put an exclamation point behind it."  Or, as my American Mentor said to me, "Whatever you do, do it with enthusiasm, or get out the way of somebody who has enthusiasm."

After a year-long journey through trial and error,  I'm now looking at the recipe for success both behind and ahead.

There are multiple layers in any profitable enterprise.  I have found at least three, perhaps four, in the process known as "Money-n-the-Bank.  The way I see it,  achievement, belief in that achievement, the ability to achieve sums up the challenge for any caring adult of a new Youth Achiever to "be or not to be."

Three layers answered the question for me.  "I can" now serves as the root, embedded in the foundation, which deems my success before even initiating the work. 

The work starts before the work starts. If that doesn't make sense to you, maybe some spiritual refreshing will help.  Over the past 12 months I have personally witnessed a chance to win a chance becoming real in the person of La'Nyesha M. Stradford Wiggins.

La'Nyesha is the newest candidate for Economic Inclusion, in a national program known as THE ANNUAL YOUTH ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS.  I'm learning with La'Nyesha and a Whole Village of Caring Adults that goals need not only be conceived, but written as well. And belief in reaching those goals, should precede the goals themselves.

La'Nyesha's written goals are now in "the process" of being valued as Money-n-the-Bank, a seven-part vision of her own American future.  During "the process," twenty "caring" adults stepped up "to be or not to be" La'Nyesha's whole village.

These caring adults cared enough about La'Nyesha's future to tear away from everyday distractions that tend to hold us all back.   They have committed to, not only be interested, but to involve each other as a corporate entity.

We've all heard, "It takes a village to raise a child"; well sometimes it takes a village to inspire other members of the village, which should, in theory, motivate the village. Everyone has a part.

Raising a Whole Village is not always easy.  I found it particularly frustrating to come close to completion and then miss the deadline—despite some valiant last-minute efforts.

"All things are possible to the believer." I got up, dusted my hurt feelings off and got busy turning my sour lemons into lemonade.   As a small business owner, I get it!  TIME IS MONEY.  Time waits for no one, therefore we should never wait for time. Make time….. “GET IT DONE!”

This year, La'Nyesha M. Stradford-Wiggins is a winner!   She has written seven goals which I believe YouthUSA will value as Money-n-the-Bank.  Her spiritual, physical, social, financial, educational, professional, and recreational goals are being shared via La'nyesha's YouthUSA Fellowship, a special Facebook group set up for the Whole Village.

La'Nyesha will be calling on the Whole Village to complete the FDIC MoneySmart Financial Literacy course to help her bank the first $500 toward her financial goal.

Now that she has raised a Whole Village,  La'Nyesha is well on her way to becoming a YouthUSA Economic Beneficiary with all rights and responsibilities.  Her next challenge, with the help of key advisors will be to make sure her friends and their friends also raise a village.  It's one thing to say you want to help youth or you want to help poor people be less poor.  It's a whole new opportunity when you see yourself in that vision becoming real.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

7.6 million American children unbanked?

YouthUSA Economic Beneficiaries can bank $500 or more
when your Whole Village completes FDIC Money Smart CBI
By Eric Stradford, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired
AMWS April 19, 2017, Atlanta -- If you’ve been distracted by national demands for transparency, you may miss one opportunity for bi-partisan engagement. Representatives Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Joyce Beatty (D-OH), co-chair the Financial and Economic Literacy Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. In case you missed it in national news reports, April is National Financial Literacy Month. 
YouthUSA has called on the bank that holds its money and the agency that insures it to PAY ATTENTION! YouthUSA is looking to a few good professionals, employed by our bank and government agencies like FDIC, for a little help with low income Americans hoping to be less poor.
“This week in the news, the temporal economy of former NFL star Aaron Hernandez allegedly ended in suicide.  Hernandez played for the New England Patriots as a tight end and in 2013 had an estimated net worth of $8 million.  Since they’re talking about it in the news, we figured a life’s lesson in financial literacy might be appropriate,” said Stephanie A. Stradford, CEO for Youth Achievers USA Institute.
We’ve all heard the axiom, TIME IS MONEY.  Winners at YouthUSA are reading between the lines to assess their own value as assets instead of liabilities to the American economy.  As winners, they’re applying time and money realities to goals for lifelong learning and earning.  To win, they’ll need to MAKE time and not WASTE time, USE time and not LOSE time by DOING time.
Aaron Michael Hernandez was born on November 6, 1989 in Bristol, Connecticut. He died April 18, 2017.  Two dates and a dash in between pretty much sums up his temporal economy. By 2015, Attorney John Fitzpatrick was speaking for Hernandez.  According to Fitzpatrick, Hernandez, who was convicted in April in the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, “is low on money as his legal fees are piling up.”  Reports say Hernandez was paid for only one year of his terminated $40 million contract with the Patriots.
Despite the reported prison suicide, his former teammates of the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots visited the White House, today.  Somebody had to say something, but nobody wanted to state the obvious.  Neither Hernandez nor President Donald Trump would be releasing their federal income tax returns for the 2016 tax year.
Since so many young people desire to become instant millionaires and billionaires, perhaps it's time for us all to learn more about money instead of just spending it. Earlier this year, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) rolled out a new and improved version of Money Smart to help make financial education more accessible.  YouthUSA and other partners affiliated through the FDIC Money Smart Alliance are stepping up efforts to make business as usual a practice of the past. 
It’s been more than a decade since YouthUSA CEO Stephanie A. Walker Stradford met with FDIC’s Penny King to partner on FDIC Financial Literacy.  YouthUSA’s commitment was to promote Money Smart CBI to engage YouthUSA beneficiaries across the U.S. in financial literacy.   Mrs. Stradford traveled to churches throughout the six state Atlanta Federal Reserve Region looking for low income Americans in need of economic inclusion.   Most of the caring adults had no clue as to what Economic Inclusion meant on Our Streets, USA.
According to the 2015 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households 7.0 percent of U.S. households were unbanked, meaning that no one in the household had a checking or savings account.
Approximately 9.0 million U.S. households, made up of 15.6 million adults and 7.6 million children, were reportedly unbanked. The most recent survey was administered in June 2015 in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau, collecting responses from more than 36,000 households. The survey provides estimates of the pro-portion of U.S. households that do not have an account at an insured institution, and the proportion that have an account but obtained (nonbank) alternative financial services in the past 12 months. The survey also provides insights that may inform efforts to better meet the needs of these consumers within the banking system.
Helping unbanked and underbanked Americans enter the economic mainstream promotes a noble thought, but as the history reveals, it’s not easy. First introduced in 1991, the Assets for Independence Act (AFIA) worked its way through several sessions of Congress, finally passing in 1998. The 105th Congress appropriated $105 million to fund IDAs over the course of 5 years. AFI was the “largest federal funder of IDA programs” awarding grants to more than 400 non-profits and government programs. More than 84,000 families received some sort of assistance from AFI through the IDA and financial education programs. Over 40% of these families have been able to “join the economic mainstream” through the purchase of assets.
The process of applying, and receiving grants can be improved by reducing administrative costs, clarifying specific sponsor organization and defining the grant process from congressional appropriation to an individual IDA.

Monday, April 3, 2017

BREAKING NEWS: Getting Money Smart

By Eric Stradford, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired
AMWS April 3, 2017, Atlanta – “Get Money Smart,” is the latest good news from Youth Achievers USA Institute.  The national 501c3 public charity shifted its LEARN-2-EARN trust into high gear this week, calling for due diligence by beneficiaries and benefactors to complete FDIC Money Smart Financial Literacy. As of January 19, 2017, the Money Smart CBI (online version) has been updated to enhance functionality and user experience, and to enable compatibility with tablet computers.   

YouthUSA sponsors LEARN-2-EARN opportunities that engage low income beneficiaries in becoming Money Smart.  It takes a whole village of caring adults to reverse cycles of economic despair and life-threatening distrust.  Some folks believe there’s still plenty of time to take corrective action.  They are the baffled majority still wondering what’s happening.

Studies show that financial education and maintaining a savings account are two major steps toward Economic Inclusion.  Based on its outreach to beneficiaries, stakeholders and board members, YouthUSA is taking a proactive approach to its philanthropic investments.

Way too many Americans last week followed conflicting reports about nothing while master manipulators continued to sow seeds of distrust. A Pew Research study measures a “great deal of confusion” by a vast majority of Americans over what is fake and what is truth.

According to a 2014 study, also by the Pew Research Center, 70.6% of the American population identified as “Christians,”  called by a name hated by haters.  They should “ know the truth…   A Savings Account  is already “within easy reach…” And there’s just enough good news on account to bless believers baffled by an overwhelming plethora of fake news.

Ignoring the facts has long been a staple of political speech. Every day, politicians perpetuating Pontius Pilate policy overstate some statistic, distort their opponents’ positions, or simply spew unsubstantiated untruths.  The incessive spinning by surrogates and pundits have, “Got me going in circles.”

Then there’s fake news, the phenomenon that is now sweeping, well, the news. Fake news is made-up stuff, masterfully manipulated to look like credible journalistic reports that are easily spread online to large audiences willing to believe the fictions and spread the word. (Politico)

YouthUSA’s alternate route to “goin in circles” is to follow the money.  We’re taught to believe the shortest distance between two points is believed to be a straight line. So why do so many Americans allow themselves to be distracted from what they know or believe they know?
Which of the following is Good News or Fake News? 

a.     Two Corinthians entered a bar, one from the right, the other from the left.  Bartender says, “What can I get for you?” The Corinthians instinctively look at each other, then to the bartender, they both respond, “BYPARTISAN-CHIPS.”  “Sorry,” replied the bartender, “haven’t served those since Nixon.

b.     Donald Trump financial worth, by his own claim was in excess of $10 billion. But Forbes calculates that his current net worth is actually $3.5 billion. That's down $200 million since before the election, largely due to slumping New York real estate values.

c.      “It is by believing in his heart that a man becomes right with God; and with his mouth he tells others of his faith, confirming his salvation,” describes a next first step toward economic inclusion.

d.     An IDA can help low income Americans be less poor.

As of January 19, 2017, the Money Smart CBI (online version) has been updated to enhance functionality and user experience, and to enable compatibility with tablet computers. The course content of the adult and young adult courses remains the same.  However, as a result of this upgrade, users will need to create new accounts to continue completing Money Smart CBI modules.

Completion of The FDIC Money Smart CBI is a YouthUSA program requirement.  All requests for financial benefits require successful completion of FDIC by the beneficiary’s Whole Village of caring adults.  Once you have collected and assembled FDIC Money Smart Certificates for your Whole Village, winners must notify YouthUSA using the YouthUSA Connect Form at