How BlackFem Does it Differently (and Better)
By George Tepe
The need for financial education is great, and many nonprofits and corporations work to increase financial literacy. BlackFem does things differently and, if I may, better!
Most importantly, BlackFem teaches wealth and financial literacy. Our founder and CEO Chloe has dedicated an entire article to explaining the importance of this focus.
BlackFem is in schools. While workshops and summer programs are beneficial, periodic programs alone will not teach the millions of students whose wealth and financial illiteracy will be exploited for profit. So often after seeing our curriculum and workshops people ask “Why isn’t this in schools?” Well, it is! BlackFem offers both curriculum that integrates into the school day and an after school program that allows students to create and operate a school bank. And, of course, our At School programs are open to all students. Click here to learn more.
All of BlackFem’s curriculum is customized and infused with the experience of low-income communities of color. Teachers know their students best, so the BlackFem team travels to each school to meet with the teachers and administrators to ensure that our curriculum connects with the students in that school. Each school community and classroom is different. The curriculum students learn from must address the issues in their daily lives and must reflect their experience or it will not connect with the students. For example, some other financial literacy curriculum discusses saving your allowance in order to teach saving and investing. However, many of our families cannot afford to give an allowance to their children. How can students learn wealth and financial literacy concepts if the curriculum itself excludes them and their experience? One size does not fit all.
BlackFem’s team combines both financial experts and teachers. Simply put, financial education requires both finance and education. The BlackFem team has individuals with Wall Street experience, Series certifications, Certified Financial Planner and Chartered Life Underwriter certifications, Masters degrees in general and special education, and inner-city teaching experience. The financial expertise of the BlackFem team allows the organization to teach complex financial concepts and know that they are taught correctly. The teaching experts ensure that we adequately support our teachers and create curriculum that actually connects with students. For example, BlackFem’s customized curriculum centers on student “investigations” where students are active participants in the learning process. Financial education cannot be taught correctly without financial experts and teachers working together.
BlackFem utilizes and supports teachers. Teachers know how to teach, so BlackFem trains teachers, rather than part-time volunteers, to teach our wealth and financial literacy curriculum. Teachers know how to engage their students, manage their classroom, and make curriculum accessible in the moment on an individual basis to their students. However, teachers are already overworked, so BlackFem provides all lesson plans, anchor charts, visual aids, and student-facing and parent-facing materials necessary to teach our curriculum. In between full lessons, BlackFem provides additional enrichment materials to allow teachers to inject brief wealth and financial literacy discussions every week. BlackFem also conducts all necessary data analytics for our schools. In addition, BlackFem provides in-person and online teacher training. BlackFem’s online teacher platform provides detailed descriptions and explanations, video examples of other teachers teaching the curriculum, and the ability for teachers to give real-time feedback and ask real-time questions to the BlackFem team. Finally, teachers deserve wealth and financial literacy too! BlackFem teacher training begins with our Financial Fitness for Teachers, a wealth and financial literacy course specifically designed for the financial circumstances and experiences of teachers. This program allows them to build their own comprehensive financial plan in addition to building their expertise in the financial concepts they will teach. Not only do students benefit from our partnerships, but teachers increase their wealth and financial literacy too!
BlackFem is a non-profit and its workshops are free. We are not trying to make a buck off teaching these critical concepts to the most disadvantaged in our society. BlackFem is dedicated to making high-quality wealth and financial literacy programs available for all women and girls of color regardless of financial status. Low-income families are the most economically exploited, so we cannot leave them behind! Wealthy parents teach their children wealth and financial literacy for free, so low-income families deserve wealth and financial literacy for free too. Most, if not all, of our families could not afford the tuition charged by for-profit companies and some other non-profits. Organizations that charge families either exclude low-income communities or hypocritically push these families into debt in order for them to learn how to take control of their finances. Click here to learn more about our In-house programs. BlackFem charges below-market rates for its school programs, and we are dedicated to building community coalitions to help defray these costs.
BlackFem is a community-based nonprofit, and the majority of the BlackFem team is women of color. BlackFem is based in Harlem, and the BlackFem team works on the ground with the families that we serve. The close working relationship of the BlackFem team with the families we serve ensures that our curriculum is infused with the true (and ever changing) experience of our students. Because the majority of our team is women of color, our organization reflects the students and families we serve, and our team personally understands their experience. BlackFem is not a for-profit corporation, is not operated by the finance industry or its lobbying group, and is not run by people outside of the community.
BlackFem is focused on and builds community coalitions. Wealth and financial literacy is all we do. BlackFem is focused only on the United States and targets the lowest income neighborhoods in the country. All of the schools we serve are Title 1 schools, meaning they serve a large number of low-income students. BlackFem builds community coalitions to help cover the cost of BlackFem’s At School programs. BlackFem works with local elected officials, companies in the school’s district, and school leaders to select the schools with the most need and to secure funding for our programs. All change starts with the local community, so BlackFem works to ensure we are on the ground with community leaders.
BlackFem has a whole-community approach. BlackFem, of course, teaches students of all ages, but we do not stop there. We teach our teachers. We provide parent materials with all of our programs to allow parents to continue the financial discussions at home. We offer a free online adult program with more advanced financial topics. We partner with financial institutions to give our parents the opportunity to talk with financial planners and advisors while we conduct our programs with their children. Finally, all of our families, students, and teachers can open fee-free bank accounts.
BlackFem is inclusive. As is clear by now, BlackFem is inclusive of all races and socio-economic backgrounds. BlackFem welcomes trans women and girls and gender fluid students too. Our curriculum is translated into many languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, French, Mandarin, and soon Nepali. BlackFem also works to ensure that our programs are accessible for individuals with physical or learning disabilities. BlackFem school programs include special-education-specific classrooms, like classrooms that serve autistic students. BlackFem’s use of teachers within schools allows it to include special education students in its school programs. Volunteers who are not trained in special education are unable to teach special education students, and therefore these students are often excluded from other organizations’ financial education programs.
What makes BlackFem different is what makes us better at teaching women and girls of color wealth and financial literacy. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Find out more at blackfem.org and please make sure to support us to ensure that we can continue to help all of our students!