Living in a small town in Northern California for most of my life, it wasn’t until I moved to the metropolis of the Bay Area to attend high school that I realized how much of a lack of exposure and resources exists for people of small town communities.
My close association with an organization that I volunteered at during middle school, the African American Family Cultural Center (AAFCC) in Oroville, CA, allowed me to maintain a valuable connection to where I grew up.
During the summer of 2020 in the middle of the Pandemic, the widening socioeconomic disparities made me want to make more of an impact. I thought of the kids at the AAFCC and wanted to affect their lives. I knew learning about managing money was a necessary skill. I started a Financial literacy program and beginning that fall, I held weekly zoom lessons covering basic topics. It turned out to be educational and a lot of fun for all of us. The following year I was able to partner with a financial advisor from Merrill Lynch to create a more engaging program.
As I worked to develop this program I realized that there are many organizations teaching financial literacy in larger cities but often the youth in small town communities are left behind. These towns are limited due to lack of banks, investment communities, and job pipelines.
My partnership with the AAFCC has helped create this pilot project, The Oroville Project. This is a model for other small towns with populations less than 20,000 to target the unique challenges they face in spreading financial literacy.
Oroville is a small town in Northern California about 65 mi north of Sacramento with a population of 19,895. It is located in the California Central Valley surrounded by farming communities. The town gets its name from its formation during the California Gold Rush when thousands of prospectors came to the Oroville area seeking riches. It is also known for Lake Oroville which was created by the Oroville Dam, the tallest earth-filled dam in the country. Given its distance from a large city, many members of the community are not exposed to many opportunities.