My Brother’s Keeper is an after-school program for young men that helps prepare them for their adult lives. With meetings every Friday, students gain useful knowledge from mentors on a multitude of topics. One particular topic that I’ve been able to learn about is financial literacy. Financial literacy is an important aspect of any adult’s life because without it, you’d likely have an abundance of money problems. Not paying back bank loans and not paying your credit card bills are irresponsible actions that could be avoided by being financially literate. These actions negatively affect your credit, which helps banks determine how credible you are and whether they would loan you money. These are valuable lessons that I am learning, and I can say that I have learned a lot about the importance of financial literacy in the few meetings that I’ve attended.
One of the mentors from the program, Yinka Ogunlowo, says, “I believe it is important for young men to discuss topics relevant to their lives as adults because as an adult I can look back and easily say that if I discussed these things back then, it would have made a world of difference in my life,” and goes on to say, “My Dad always had a saying, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Mr. Ogunlowo recognizes that he would’ve benefited greatly as a young man from the information that we are receiving now. And as his father stated, not having a plan is basically failure from the beginning, which is a theme that is often present in our meetings.
Another mentor from the MBK program, Leo Familia, expresses, “Adults don’t want the young people to fall off the right path, so by supporting the young people, we are able to guide them where maybe we did not have the help. Each generation needs to take better care of the generation that comes after them.” Looking out for the younger generations is something that definitely benefits them by preventing the same mistakes from being made. Mr. Familia then goes on to say, “I also think that a mentor comes from a different place unlike a teacher who can be seen as a person who gives out information rather than guidance.” As a student myself, I can say that most people my age do receive information from a mentor or counselor differently than from a teacher. Because of this, young men in the meetings are likely to absorb information and ask more questions.
It is undoubtedly advantageous for young people to gain information from adults who once stood in their shoes because hearing information that you can relate to often makes the learning process easier. “And my experiences can be an example for the young people so that they can avoid taking as long as I did in settling on what I wanted to do. I grew up in the same neighborhood as many of the young people and faced many challenges similar to theirs, and my role as a mentor is to show them that if you persevere it is all going to work out,” says Mr. Familia. As you can see, he has already gone through the things that many people my age are experiencing now, so his lessons are especially relatable for young men. Hearing what he has to say about his past hardships just prepares us more for what the future holds.
Mr Ogunlowo then says, “Looking back, I know that I’ve made countless amounts of mistakes. And although I can’t go back and redo those moments, I can help others avoid making those same errors. However, if there is one thing I am proud of, it’s the fact that I’ve used my failures for feedback. I believe that is the secret to success in life, taking risks, going for your goals and not being afraid to fail in the process.” As previously stated, the lessons that we learn help us avoid making the same mistakes as the previous generations, therefore decreasing our margin of error.
Moreover, Mr Familia states, “Each week we talk about topics that have a direct connection to the lives of the young people. Each session starts off with a real world scenario and then we come up with solutions as a group. We cover topics like personal finance, individual development, code switching, health/wellness and application of knowledge. The goal is that at the end of each meeting the young people leave feeling more confident in handling real world situations.” To add onto what Mr. Familia said, when having discussions in the meetings, I often find myself applying what I’m hearing to my day to day life. For example, while talking about the importance of saving money and making smart purchases, I began to rethink my view on what purchases were necessary and what purchases were unnecessary. Mr. Ogunlowo reiterates, “I hope that we as the mentors will be able to provide the young men with valuable knowledge and insight surrounding things that aren’t typically discussed in their classroom setting. But more importantly I hope that we spark the desire to seek more knowledge as well as the urge to share that knowledge with their friends, family and other members of their community.” As you can see, my application of these lessons to my life and the lives of friends and family is the main goal of the My Brother’s Keeper program.
Gilver Bueno, Senior
The My Brother’s Keeper program has been extremely helpful. I’ve learned more about how to get the best out of my present time than any other class or program has taught me. Learning about the importance of credit and how we can act now to utilize it for our future is one of the best lessons I’ve been taught in or out of school. Having the knowledge on money and how the banks are working against those who aren’t wise about how to use their money has been extremely eye-opening. Money management is incredibly important, especially for young adults in our positions, and preparing for the future and college in order to get ready for that future we have to prepare our finances as college has the biggest effect on this aspect. Now we have the opportunity to reach that financial gain for our college years for the majority of us, as well as the rest of our lives. Learning of credit, credit scores, and the applications and needs for both are something no one else teaches in school but is so important for our futures and how life is lived. At some point we will all have a credit card or need a loan, but how many of us actually know how to use or get one?
Another MBK aspect that is more than worth mentioning is the brotherhood that is offered. Our program isn’t just a class to be taken, or listened to, it is also a group that is bonding through the many things that we have in common. We share a group that each of us can come to and speak our minds without fear or lack of support. That’s what makes these classes so enjoyable; the fact that no one judges you because we’ve most likely dealt with the same and the fact that those in charge, Mr. Leo, Mr. Codio, and Mr. Yinka are all speaking on their own personal examples of what it is they teach. They show compassion for those who lack the knowledge and a level of caring to get those gaining that knowledge to the next level only comparable to that of a mentor. The program is informational, enjoyable and serves as an importance to all of us young individuals who are ready to reach our own personal goals and start our path to independence. These weekly meetings have been a prime example of help coming from any place, and I encourage everyone who wants to take part to join My Brother’s Keeper.
Daven Parker Williams, Sophomore
Last Friday My Brother’s Keeper had a lesson on financial literacy and a brief history of the first African American to open a bank in The United States of America: William Washington Browne. I was new to MBK, knowing nothing, I was anxious about going to this meeting. I forced myself to join and was greeted by a familiar face: Mr Familia. Seeing him made me feel better and more comfortable in MBK. We proceeded to learn about financial literacy and life tips along the way. Mr Familia asked us questions, such as why did teens spend so much and why is it so hard to get rich in life. These questions connected with us. Being that we were teens and things that we really wanted and would spend our savings on.
After we answered these questions. We then learned about the first African American to open a bank in America: William Washington Browne. He was an ex-slave who had saw white owned banks as being racist towards African Americans, to the point where these banks would steal black people’s hard earned money. This pushed William to open up his own bank in the south after the Civil War, which is crazy by itself, but he did it. His bank was a success of some sorts. Earning over one thousand dollars which would be more than thirty thousand dollars in today’s money. His bank was sadly stopped and destroyed by white supremacists in the end, and he was run out of town.
In conclusion this really got to me knowing an African American could achieve this in a very racist time in America’s history and makes me want to become better than I already am and do great things like William Washington Browne.
Marc Joseph, Sophomore
During the MBK program I have learned many great things from the people working there and teaching us about financial literacy. I have learned about saving my money and what benefits it can bring me. Most importantly, I learned about the difference between My “Wants” and My “Needs” and the different aspects that play a role in those determining what those two things are. The people in MBK don’t try to sugarcoat the reality of how credit can be a virtual prison if you play your cards wrong and how banks love taking advantage of people who don’t know much about finance, especially men of color. This makes me trust MBK is during a real good thing so we don’t end up in that state. Through MBK, I have learned so much about credit and all the things a credit score can affect in your life, such as how much of a loan you can get from a bank, the type of home you can apply for, and your interest rate. Not only did they teach us about this, they also taught us about how to grow credit and real life examples of how they grew their credit and all the things they wish they knew being a young man not knowing much about financial literacy. I think this program has really helped me to learn more about credit and the program would be a great option for any of those who have wondered about how credit works.