Black History Month and Beyond - A Focus on Financial Literacy and Mentorship

ATB and Realize Your Potential Youth Society team up to help power financial future

By ATB Financial 1 February 2023 3 min read

Student and RYP participant Trevon Blake is shown at the RYP Honors Gala in Calgary on June 25, 2022. Trevon says he loves the RYP community because it helps him explore science technology, and financial literacy. Photographer: Ejiro Onobrakpor, photographer, filmmaker and Learning Experience Designer at ATB.

Navigating the world has always required knowledge, tools or someone to point you in the right direction. Overcoming obstacles encountered along the way is easier with awareness, preparation and resilience.

For descendents of the African diaspora, the journey into adulthood can be complicated by the discrimination and inequality they endure on a daily basis.

“Those challenges present themselves in the education system, limited access to financial resources and professional pursuits,” says Steve Shakes, co-founder of Realize Your Potential Youth Society (RYP).

RYP empowers these young people by supplying them with the guidance and knowledge they need to excel in their lives and careers.

“Financial literacy is important for our dreamers and ambassadors at RYP because it provides them with life skills that can help them transition into adulthood,” says Shakes. “These skill sets can help them with every aspect of their lives.”

Last year, ATB partnered with RYP to support their New Life Regeneration Program. Plans are now underway to partner on the upcoming Economic Empowerment Program later this year, which aims to foster an understanding and appreciation of financial literacy, financial planning, investment management, fiscal responsibility, and career development.

In early 2022, the first cohort of students in the New Life Regeneration Program aged 8 to 24 attended three sessions led by Anthony Ferdinand, Managing Director at ATB Financial and member of ATB’s Black Team Member Network (BTMN).

According to Ferdinand, early access to knowledge can have lifelong benefits. Equipping youth with financial literacy is essential preparation for what’s to come.

“We often hear ‘I wish someone would have taught me this’. Typically, it's when that moment is happening—when they're applying for a line of credit or getting their first student loan,” says Ferdinand.

In addition to his core duties, Ferdinand is also the chairperson of ATB’s BTMN. It’s a leadership role that has provided him with insights about the challenges other team member networks face, and how they navigate them.

“It really does feel like we're in this together,” he explains. “And we're trying to figure it out and make us a better organization because of it.

Within ATB, team member networks are groups created by employees who share certain interests or identities. The groups exist to build awareness, to serve as inclusive spaces for members and allies, and to give each community a voice in the organization.

ATB’s corporate culture of empathy and equity is a natural match for RYP’s mandate for support and connection.

Powering financial futures with information and inspiration

The RYP sessions are full of practical information like how to open a bank account and the importance of paying back loans. But they’re also an opportunity for presenters to become role models who inspire careers in finance.

“We talk about things like opening up a bank account and the importance of paying back your loans,” Ferdinand says. “Seeing someone that looks just like them adds that much more comfort and trust to what we're talking about. I try to show them that they can be something more than what they might think they can be. The journey isn't easy. But you can get there.”
In addition to supplying team members as mentors, ATB has so far donated over $30,000 in funding to RYP to cover program administration costs, laptops for students who need them, and scholarships—$500 for each of the 41 students in the first cohort.

ATB and RYP plan to continue the partnership in 2023, with financial literacy sessions about home ownership and mortgage applications, and deeper dives into banking as a profession. Like Ferdinand, future presenters will share how they began their careers, along with interesting facts about their roles at ATB.

As the new curriculum is being developed, Shakes is optimistic.

“The impact has been really tremendous,” he says. “The partnership can only get better in terms of helping our dreamers become more financially aware.”

Learn more about Realize Your Potential and the work they’re doing to support descendents of the African diaspora in Alberta.

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