How One Inspiring Teacher is Empowering Crypto-Entrepreneurs in the Bronx
tl;dr: An innovative new program, the Crypto Community Project, seeks to give students in some of America’s poorest neighborhoods with the skills and knowledge they need to help empower the poor and disenfranchised.
At the time, Earn was a standalone application (now it’s part of Coinbase).
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The idea was that you could pay an amount to get a guaranteed response from a person you are contacting.
I had featured the service in my book, The CMO Primer for the Blockchain World. It served as an example of how blockchain-based micro-payment systems might alter our communications landscape from one where attention was free to the sender, but not to the recipient.
It wasn’t about the money (a $5 charge), it was the meta-message that Carlos was sent to me…”I get what you are saying, Jeremy.”
He didn’t just “get” it, he REALLY got it.
More than I did, in fact.
Crypto in the South Bronx
The reason that Carlos was reaching out to me was that he was possessed with a vision.
As a teacher in a public school in the South Bronx (AOC’s district), Carlos is acutely aware of how the current financial system is not working for large swaths of the population.
As he says,
“everyone in crypto talks about ‘banking the unbanked,’ but they are looking at foreign countries. All they need to do is to look here.”
Where he works is one of the poorest congressional districts in America.
Many of the kids in his high school have to work one or two jobs to help support their families. As a result, they are either late to school, miss school entirely, or are falling asleep in class.
The neighborhood is not always so conducive to learning. During one call I subsequently had with Carlos while he was in his classroom, gunshots rang out. Two gang members were murdered on the street in front of the school.
Prospects are not always the brightest for the students. College is not a guarantee and many of them have to contend, unfortunately, with people who denigrate high achievers for being too studious.
Add to that the cost of being poor…limited access to financial services (few banks in the area) and exorbitant fees associated with payday loans and international remittances. All in all, it’s a challenging environment, to say the least.
In crypto, however, Carlos saw an opportunity to level the playing the field, or at least begin to.
He saw a chance to educate his students about what crypto meant in terms of democratized access and financial empowerment.
He wanted to figure out how to get people who believe in the potential of crypto to help make a difference for the future of the kids he taught every day.
He had already begun.
A story about how he gave Zcash to his students was profiled in the Washington Post in a story entitled “One teacher’s idea to lift poor students: A starter stash of Zcash.”
Carlos, however, thought he could do more.
He wanted to have a “crypto summer boot camp.”
In this camp, he could more fully educate young people in the South Bronx about the ins and outs of crypto.
The goal would be to provide them with the skills they would need to be valuable contributors to various crypto projects. He hoped to get them ready for internships and jobs immediately.
So, he set off on the mission of finding corporate sponsors for the Crypto Community Project.
Zcash Helps Makes the Vision a Reality
There are many projects in the crypto sphere that talk about empowering the financially disenfranchised.
You might be surprised to find a group of teenagers willing to spend two days learning about cryptocurrency during a brutally hot summer in New York in a converted former penny factory in the Bronx.
However, after 2 minutes, you quickly realize that this is not a normal group of teenagers.
They and their families come from all parts of the globe and they are super smart, sharp, committed and passionate.
They know, firsthand, how the existing financial system is not working for people in their communities. And they are open to the possibilities that a new, better way may exist.
Which is why they eagerly absorbed everything that was provided to them over the course of the Crypto Community Summer Boot Camp.
I had the chance to spend 90 minutes with them talking about crypto and answering their questions.
Then, I got to watch as they spent 1 hour listening to 2 lawyers talk about regulation. Yes, you read that correctly.
You got the sense that history was happening in front of your eyes. These kids, still in their teens, were getting a taste of the future and, the more they discussed it, the more they started to see the potential for how things could be different.
This, I thought, was why I continue to believe in the potential for crypto. These kids prove that there is a need.
Twenty years from now, the alumni of this program will probably be recognized in a documentary or awards program.
For now, they have a short write up in CoinDesk: From Ghana to the Bronx, These Teen Bitcoiners Are Building the Future
If you are interested in learning more, becoming a sponsor, bringing this program to your community, or supporting in another way, I encourage you to reach out to the Crypto Community Project.