For every action we take, there are consequences. As with all consequences, they require a decision to move forward. It had already been my 3rd year of college when I realized the path I had chosen for myself wasn’t the right one. I was completely and utterly flunking all my engineering classes. What could I do? I felt like all young people around me were on the road to success, but I was lost on what to do. There was a silver lining to this realization which was that I should pursue what I’m good at and enjoy. I had thought back to two events that changed my life. A management class that I took which highlighted a problem that not only affected me but others as well. The professor of that class Glen Patterson inspired me to pursue entrepreneurship.
I then thought back to the moment when my family and I were priced out of our neighborhood in Astoria, Queens and my mom was able to utilize her lessons learned from my father’s financial mistakes to mortgage us a home in Jamaica, Queens. I held onto that feeling of having a home into HS at Brooklyn Tech where I met others that were dealing with the same displacement due to gentrification and a lack of high quality financial education. I wanted to do something about this. I wanted to be part of the solution. I then applied for a Colin Powell Community Engagement fellowship. Being accepted led me to pursue my venture, The Money Hub, full time.
After graduation I got to work building a team, a curriculum and relationships with youth serving institutions. Over the span of the next 3 years we expanded our programming from Harlem, New York to every borough in the city on a mission to teach financial literacy. During that time, I personally led each and every workshop to work closely with the students I hoped to serve. Shean helped to manage and test out curriculum styles, Natalie created the interactive materials and design and Joshua created the tech for teaching purposes. We learned quickly what worked and what didn’t . The classic model of handouts, tests and homework was outdated. We wanted to teach financial literacy for all, and what we learned was to get kids to understand why financial education was important. In order to do this we had to meet them where they were, which was on their phones and on social media. We learned to gamify, simplify, create competition, reward, instill community and have fun. We applied these principles moving forward, first in our in person sessions and then in our gamified app platform. The scholars’ success meant our success.
While making an impact, we also quickly learned how we could build for them as well. While others designed a product and then tried to find a fit and often completely ignored a demographic group, we got to teach in a more intimate setting with the youth we were building for. We identified and learned about the need first, then built the tech. We came in with a solid curriculum, and thanks to our scholars we were able to build it centered around the individual goals of the student to help create a road map for them. Then we applied the principles we learned from working closely with our scholars to develop a gaming platform that teaches.
Unfortunately, on January 15th, 2019 I was involved in a car accident that would alter my life forever. I had suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury which left me in a coma for 2 weeks, hospitalized for 2 months and with ongoing physical therapy even until now. For nearly all of 2019 I had to use a wheelchair. I was unable to attend workshops and just spoke at a few events about my accident and recovery. I needed someone to always travel with me and only by accessible taxis. At home I couldn’t use the bathroom, shower, dress myself or cook for myself. The focus in therapy was mostly just to be able to take care of myself again let alone get back to working. During the span of initial recovery we began streamlining our curriculum and incorporating even more tech. I couldn’t be more proud of my team for hanging strong while I was recovering.
Then, in 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and our in person spring sessions got cancelled. There was a silver lining, however. We were able to work on designing a fully digital gaming platform with our streamlined and tested curriculum. All of 2020 and half of 2021 we built out a fully digital, gamifed finlit platform while incorporating the principles we had learned. This was not only a tested and useful gaming platform but a scalable one as well.
We spent the summer 2021 session in partnership with Cents Ability and Curtis HS in Staten Island to test out our platform after the initial version. Starting Fall 2021, we will also expand for the first time outside of NYC into the Uniondale school district in Long Island, NY using our gamified finlit edtech platform called FinGem. With it we are hoping to revolutionize education as a whole and create happy adults that go on to live their dreams and build generational wealth.