Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver recently gave an impassioned perspective on the power of sharing knowledge with the city’s teenagers. As a partner with MPS since our inception and given Dr. Driver’s prominent role in our community, we felt it was worthwhile to share the comments she shared as a keynote at our Donor Appreciation event on Sept. 30, 2015 at Miller Park.

Dr. Driver’s talk came moments after three of our financial literacy students – Jeremy, Shanice and Kalan – shared the ways a strong financial background rippled through families and gave a leg up to entrepreneurship. Make A Difference – Wisconsin CEO and President Brenda Campbell introduced Dr. Driver, whose keynote can be watched in full here.

On the power of sharing knowledge of financial education:
“You can never underestimate the power of a single action. When I look around this room – the smiles, the tears, the joy that people are feeling in listening to these young people – it

[shows] our future really is now. It’s right here, right in front of us. Hearing about how they are sharing their experiences with their families, it’s something that is personal right now. You think about people talking about Milwaukee being the fifth poorest city in this country, and how do we break that cycle? It’s through knowledge, it’s through education, it’s through the village coming together to wrap their arms around our children and make sure this cycle doesn’t continue.”

On the value of “just-in-time” learning:
“You hear about the coaches, every once in a while you get to a school and you might be able to see a lesson or two, but to see Jeremy [Cain] go on and still use these lessons. He’s got his own business – I saw the truck outside [laughs] – this is really what it’s all about. When you think about some of the statistics that face us, with our young people … something close to 53,000 students have purchased or using credit cards in college, yet so many of them don’t understand interest. … You go to college and you want a new pair of shoes or you want to go to the movies, you start obtaining all of these ‘tools’ [like credit cards] that really aren’t your friends but they’re pitched to you as if they are. So to have those tools [like financial literacy] ahead of time is really important. It’s something close to 2 million cards out there to our college-age students in this country. So this program really is mission-critical.”

On the importance of financial mentors:
“I can speak from personal experience; I didn’t have financial literacy in high school,” Dr. Driver said, later adding, “These are things that to many of us, it’s really simple, when you think about banking, when you think about savings accounts or checking accounts. From personal experience, I remember the first time you go to a bank, you try to act like you know what you’re doing, but you really don’t. You’re hoping there will be someone who will be nice enough to you to explain that process. But our young people [through Make A Difference] are getting that on the front end.”

On teens’ “voice in this community”:
It’s not corny: when you say ‘make a difference,’ you really are making a difference in the lives of our young people. There are so many vices that are out there that they don’t have the knowledge, tools and people to support them, so they won’t be prepared. … Think about their families, the story that Shanice shared about her mother, is a true testimony to the power of knowledge and sharing it. You hear those ripples of joy from people who have been through this program … Our young people have a voice in this community, if we only continue to listen and work with them.”

-Intro and transcription by Justin Kern, Make A Difference – Wisconsin Marketing and Communications Manager

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