Operation Hope and Banking on Our Future: An Interview with Jennifer Brower
Posted by on August 31, 2011
Conceived in 1992, Operation HOPE is America’s first not-for-profit social investment banking and financial literacy empowerment organization. We are currently operating with more than 400 private sector partners, 1,500 non-profit and school partners and 100 government partners in 68 US cities and South Africa. Banking on Our Future has educated over 570,000 students, to-date! We have raised more than $500 million for the underserved population and our mission, called the “Silver Rights Movement,” is focused on making free enterprise and capitalism relevant to all. We now have a 19 year track record of providing economic empowerment for adults and youth through economic education.
The Banking on Our Future classroom program is taught by HOPE Corps Volunteers (primarily professionals) who are trained to break down their knowledge of banking into terms that youth can understand and utilize immediately.
Operation HOPE Banking on Our Future Program serves: Grades 4-12 (ie: youth ages 9-18) at no cost to school districts and community-based organizations, with a focus on urban, underserved communities. The program consists of five modules: Basics of Banking, Checking & Savings, The Power of Credit, Investments and A Course in Dignity. The curriculum is designed for use across the US, and all units and lessons have been aligned with National Math and Social Studies , and is delivered by Operation HOPE’s volunteer HOPE CORPS. These volunteers not only provide information that is critical in establishing a strong financial foundation, but expose our students to a wealth of opportunities and professional avenues.
If you’d like to get involved all scheduling is done 30 days in advance. Volunteer trainings/orientations are regularly scheduled by contacting Jennifer Brower
Banking on Our Future – Philadelphia, Jennifer Brower, Program Manager
401 W. Tabor Road, Philadelphia, PA 19120
I interviewed Jennifer regarding Philadelphia’s Banking on Our Future program and how college students or service-learning classes can get involved in her program’s efforts to provide free training to youth in Philadelphia on financial literacy.
Q: What is Operation Hope’s current agenda in implementing BOOF for this upcoming school year?
A: Operation Hope is a national non-profit, we’ve been in Philadelphia since 2003, teaching Banking on our Future curriculum. Our target audience is youth ages 9-18 or 4th-12th graders. Our financial literacy program is funded through private foundations and banking institutions so that we can offer it free of charge to K-12 schools, Out of School Time (OST) programs and other community programs.
Our curriculum aligns with math and science standards and we partner with bankers. In addition to giving students new knowledge it’s great for them to see so many working professionals volunteering who they could see themselves turning in to and it opens them up to a field that maybe they hadn’t considered before.
Q: Do your volunteers go through training? Can teachers do this curriculum themselves?
A: We provide an orientation and training for all of our BOOF volunteers who are primarily bankers, college students and retired professionals.. We can also provide the orientation and curriculum to teachers and they can use the curriculum free of charge. However we do ask that all of the financial literacy modules are taught.
Q: What work brought you to working for Operation Hope?
A: Prior to this I managed a capacity building grant called the Strengthening Communities Fund with OIC of America In most of my positions I develop and manage programs in collaboration with team members, that help support and strengthen communities.
Q: What kinds of programs or schools do you work in?
A: Our goal is to educate 7,000 youth per year. We do a lot of outreach to summer programs and camps, along with (Greater) Philadelphia area schools. We’ve worked with a number of parochial and charter schools in the (Greater) Philadelphia area,. and continue to conduct outreach to public schools as well.
Q: How do you reach out to public schools?
A: We recognize that our biggest need is to get in to more public schools. The volunteers are ready, willing and able. We just need better access to principals, guidance counselors and support staff to emphasize how important this work is in the schools. Mr. James Scott, the Director of Community Engagement with the School District of Philadelphia, has been extremely helpful in promoting the program to the Philadelphia public schools and we appreciate his support.
So far there have been a number of schools that have been responsive to the program. I look forward to working with them and engaging even more schools once the school year starts.
Q: How can colleges and universities get involved?
A: I’ve met with people from Chestnut Hill College and Arcadia University so far this year to talk about how college students can be trained as financial literacy educators. I would love to work with more of the schools like Temple and Drexel that are within the vicinity of Philadelphia schools. Students could also do this as a service-learning placement, fraternities and sororities could be involved; there are a lot of possibilities. I also recognize that many of these colleges and universities already have partnerships in Philadelphia schools which demonstrates another great opportunity to collaborate and offer more to our youth. .
Q: Are there other financial literacy programs in Philadelphia that use the BOOF curriculum?
A: The Urban Affairs Coalition PHAN clubs are one example of how our curriculum supports other programs in Philadelphia. They use our curriculum for the youth that work with UAC. Some of our other partners have their own curriculum in addition to ours but we ensure that they teach all of the financial literacy modules that we outline if they choose to use their own curriculum.
Q: Are there other goals for Operation Hope on the national level?
A: We’re part of the national 5 million kids initiative (www.5millionkids.org)that has the goal of empowering youth to open 50,000.00 savings accounts, through engaging 250,000 people to be volunteers to educate students in the classroom and the community. Also, by teaching financial literacy to students the goal is that this will help with high-school retention rates and aid families in supporting their children to stay in school. This connection isn’t explicit but that is the underlying goal for the program. There is a qualitative impact that all types of literacy have on students including financial literacy that help students want to stay in school.
Q: If I were a professor with a service-learning class on economics in urban cities could I have my students do this project for their placement?
A: Yes. And the students don’t have to be finance majors or bankers. This could also be a good experience for education majors who need to spend time in the classroom as part of their of their student-teaching. Also one of our modules is on how to be a “dignified” individual, defined as: “having the freedom to make decisions on one’s life and to be met with respect for this right”. In this case we focus on creating financial dignity. College students could be a model of what a “good” or “dignified” life looks like instead of the idea of fast money or quick money that many students in Philadelphia and across the nation are presented with regularly.
Q: What is the scope of your work outside of connecting to public schools?
A: I am also responsible for fundraising for the Philadelphia market BOOF program and developing/maintaining current partner relationships in the area. We have a number of very supportive partners such as: 1) PNC; 2) RSVP Volunteers of Philadelphia and Bucks County; 3) TD Bank; 4) Citizens bank; 5) SEI; 6) Wells Fargo; 7) United Bank of Philadelphia; and many more.
Q: Is there a “banking on our future” college edition for college students struggling with financing their education?
A: I agree that college students do need this resource. It’d be great to organize events for college students but right now our focus area is 9-18 year-olds.
Q: What information/resources from the School District and other entities would be most helpful in promoting and expanding BOOF in Philadelphia?
A: It’d be really helpful to have access to all Philadelphia public schools to promote this free program. In addition, it’d be helpful to know how many financial literacy programs already take place within the schools and how Operation HOPE can collaborate with these entities. It’s because of the PHENND K-16 Partnerships conference in June that I was able to reach out to many connections in the Philadelphia area.
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