Eighteen-year-old Estefania Valencia is fulfilling her dream to attend college—an aspirational goal built upon her strong funding foundation through Prosperity Works’ Prosperity Kids Child Savings Account (CSA) Program.
“The Prosperity Kids program pushed the idea of college no matter what,” said Valencia, “I just had the goal to go to college after enrolling in the program.”
Not only is Valencia making history on a personal front—she will be a first-generation college student—but she also is making Prosperity Works history by being the first to complete the CSA program and withdraw her funds to use for college. The recipient of a Davis Scholarship, Valencia plans to use her Prosperity Kids savings for school supplies, like a computer and other essentials.
Started in 2014, Prosperity Kids combines CSAs with personal, social, and financial support for the whole family, ensuring that children from limited-income New Mexico households make it out of poverty and into postsecondary education, and are equipped with the financial literacy skills and resources they need to craft a successful future. In collaboration with area schools and partner banks and credit unions, Prosperity Works ensures that children have equitable access to the Prosperity Kids program. As one of the first children to enroll in Prosperity Kids through both Washington Middle School and Southwest Capital Bank, Valencia remembers her first trip to Southwest Capital Bank with her Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) teacher and cohort.
“They were all so welcoming and everyone was excited to meet us,” she said. “It felt good having extra support helping me get to college. Opening the account was, like, now I had what I need to plan for college. I could talk about it like it was really happening.”
Research shows that children enrolled in a CSA program are four to six times more likely to attend some form of postsecondary education. Prosperity Kids not only teaches kids about the importance of money management in saving for their respective futures, but the program also requires parents to complete 10 weeks of financial literacy and parent-child development education. This basis in socio-financial literacy encourages household fiscal health and inculcates a money management mentality—an invaluable mindset that will transition with children into adulthood
For Arellana Cordero, Prosperity Works’ President & CEO, Valencia’s withdrawal from Prosperity Kids is deeply personal. A fervent believer in Prosperity Works’ mission of supporting local communities statewide, Cordero—the former Chief Financial Officer at Southwest Capital Bank—brought Prosperity Kids to the bank in 2015. Even more fittingly, Ms.Cordero also attended Washington Middle School, which has always held a special place in her heart.
“I’ve always believed in helping equip people, especially youth, with the tools they need to be financially successful—to lay a strong foundation in financial capability and wellness, on which they can build life goals,” Cordero said. “So, being able to bring the Prosperity Kids Program to both Southwest Capital and Washington Middle School is a full-circle moment for me.”
For Valencia, who plans to major in biology and later attend medical school, her college track also affords her an opportunity to explore her other passions like French culture and dance.
Due to pandemic-related academic schedule restructuration, Valencia, like many college-bound students, will be experiencing a different first semester of college life. Regardless, with her driven attitude and solid financial footing through Prosperity Kids, Valencia is ready to excel and to embrace the opportunities of her next chapter.
“I look forward to a new independence, and living and experiencing college life. There are so many people to meet and a variety of new opportunities.”
6 years in the making, Valencia’s success through Prosperity Kids is the first of many exciting stories Prosperity Works will welcome as program graduates begin to withdraw their funds to help write their next life chapters.
“I am thrilled to have Estefania as the first of many graduates from the Prosperity Kids program. With so many families facing financial insecurity right now, this savings and financial education program is more important than ever to protect and educate the next generation.” Arellana Cordero, CEO of Prosperity Works.
About Prosperity Kids:
Prosperity Works’ Prosperity Kids CSAs are matched college savings accounts for limited-income households. Parents must complete 10 weeks of financial literacy and parent-child development education. Each CSA is opened with a $100 deposit by Southwest Capital Bank, and deposits are matched 1:1—up to $200 per year until they graduate high-school. Depending on the age at which a child enrolls in Prosperity Kids, they have the opportunity to graduate high school with $5,000 or more in savings for postsecondary education.
Do CSAs really work?
Children who enroll in and leverage their CSAs are:
This year, we told you about Phase One of Energy Work and our partnership with PNM to help low-income homeowners improve their energy efficiency. Phase One consisted of upgrading lighting, power strips, aerators, and weather stripping on windows and doors in 50 homes. Of those 50 homes, 35 also qualified to receive new refrigerators at no cost.
Additional work in those homes has begun with a focus on gas efficiency and safety by upgrading hot water heaters, furnaces, and providing whole-house insulation. This work was slated to begin in mid-March just as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in New Mexico and our partner, Central New Mexico Housing had to close. They are now operational, and the parent leaders at the Partnership for Community Action are busy getting them into the installation queue.
The need for this work is more important than ever, and so far we have completed 100 of the 300 homes planned for this year. In order to qualify for these services at no cost, residents must have a household income that falls under 200% of poverty or about $44,000 for a family of four. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed financial inequalities that have been evident to us for years. Now with many of these families experiencing job and income losses, the cost reduction that comes with energy efficiency retrofits could not be more important. Once both gas and electric work has been completed, families will see a reduction in their utility bills of up to 50%.
All of this work could not be completed without Prosperity Works’ partnerships with the Partnership for Community Action, PNM, and Central New Mexico Housing. Funding has been provided by the New Mexico Zone Grant Funders and the Turner and Energy Foundations. We believe that the business model that we have created to reach those most in need may be replicated statewide, and is critical to reaching the state’s climate goals.
With many New Mexicans living at or below the poverty line, we must do all we can to ease their financial burden, and open new pathways for opportunities for them and their families. Stay up to date with our ongoing energy work by following on Facebook and Twitter.
As I conclude week one of my journey with this incredible group of people here at Prosperity Works, we are in one of the toughest times in our country's history. We are continuing to battle a deadly pandemic and the resulting economic havoc while, again, coming face-to-face with the long-term effects of racial injustice.
I am honored to carry on the work and mission of Ona Porter and the Prosperity Works TEAM. I read the following excerpt from the Aspen Institute and found it really resonated with me and found it in line with the Prosperity Works mission and strategic plan:
People’s financial well-being rests on three pillars:
These are the building blocks of financial security, and without all three of them, America won’t have a financially secure and healthy population. The racial disparities exposed by the COVID-19 crisis show the inequities in health that so tragically mirror the disparities in financial wellbeing. Now, more than ever, we commit to continuing our efforts to address this disparity and improve financial equity. The work we do here at Prosperity Works will serve this purpose and I will be hyper-focused on root causes along with systemic and institutional changes. With the three pillars above in mind, we will GROW EXISTING PROGRAMS, BRING CHANGE THROUGH OUR ADVOCACY WORK, STRENGTHEN OUR FUND DEVELOPMENT, ALL WHILE BEING INNOVATIVE AND OPEN-MINDED. We will embrace technology to build capacity and grow our organization.
The passion and hard work you contribute to this mission will be a powerful force for lasting change and will tear down systemic economic barriers for New Mexican families. We exist to make this a reality and feel it is unleashed when all people -- regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, income, religion, culture, sexual orientation or place of origin, have the opportunity to shape their own future. With the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis, which is disproportionately impacting communities of color, we must and will continue our fervent pursuit of a more just society. This effort is reflective of Prosperity Works’ broader view that we must continue to be an important player in the communities we are a part of, especially those hardest hit. Together we will build a more diverse and resilient local economy for a post-COVID-19 future by removing barriers for all New Mexicans in order to create generational change. Just as important, it includes committing the company I lead down a path of systemic, permanent change in as many ways as we can find.
With gratitude and hope,
As the demand to address the urgent needs of people who have lost some or all of their income because of COVID 19 closures, it is clearer now than ever before, that the work we do to help families build and preserve assets must be elevated.
The virus has exposed the economic inequity of race and gender that we know is often hidden in our economy. That exposed economic fault line reveals that there is so much to do to restore the promise of prosperity. Income volatility for far too many workers, households without savings or other assets, lack of sick leave or other paid time off, the digital divide, and an inadequate safety net, have severely stressed a very large percentage of New Mexico's families. Fear of missing rent or mortgage or other payments hangs as a threat to most -- kicking the can down the road for a few months is a necessary short-term response, but it does not solve the systemic challenge.
The economic disruptions to household balance sheets will be both short and long term. Thankfully, many funders, elected officials, and Congress are, or will, address key short-term concerns. These are important and critically needed for the vulnerable, the economically distressed, and the hourly workers without benefits. But the foreseeable challenges do not end there.
Recovering the economy will require tools and systemic solutions to build assets, protect assets from predation, and increase income from good jobs. Opportunities for post-secondary education must be grown. Markets where homeownership is cheaper than renting more than ever need increased incentives and pathways to increase ownership. Community economic development and small business support for good jobs need significant investments to be effective catalysts for change and prosperity.
The investment we need are to continue our work in policy and practice that build the financial capability and assets that we all need to provide to some measure of protection against personal and global disruptions.
The financial capability and asset building opportunities that we provide to low and moderate-income New Mexicans increase their financial security, their family stability, and community engagement. Our administrative advocacy helps people understand how to make modifications in practice and policy that are within their purviews of power that remove barriers to and increase opportunities for financial inclusion. Our work in developing and broadcasting consumer protections is critical to vulnerable LMI populations.
We have proven over and over again that the opposite of poverty is not wealth but social justice and opportunity. LMI families served by our New Mexico Assets Consortium are building businesses, going to college, buying homes and saving for their children's college education at a rate that is higher than any place in the nation. While a good job provides for everyday needs, it is personal, social and financial assets that provide a personal safety net and hope for the future.
During a time where many are facing financial uncertainty, finding safe and reliable lending sources is top of mind for everyone. Earlier this year, Prosperity Works partnered with TrueConnect to bring equal opportunity lending to the state of New Mexico. TrueConnect allows employers to offer their employees small-dollar loans that they repay through payroll deduction.
The mission of TrueConnect is simple, to provide safe, affordable financial support and hope to employees in need of a helping hand that is an alternative to predatory lending. Employers can enroll in TrueConnect at any time and offer this voluntary benefit to their employees at no cost. With more than 20.4% of New Mexicans living at or below the poverty line, having access to these lending services is essential. Many New Mexicans rely on payday lenders when unexpected expenses come up, creating a cycle of debt that is hard to get out of.
Having TrueConnect in place prevents predatory lenders from targeting employees at their most vulnerable and turning short-term financial issues into debilitating, long-term issues that can affect their ability to work. Additionally, TrueConnect borrowers have access to six free financial counseling sessions that can help individuals address their current financial situation and any problems they might be having.
Some of the benefits of TrueConnect
If your business is interested in TrueConnect visit our Fair Lending Options of Employers page or contact us at 505-217-2747 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lives are transformed when exposed to the realities of others!
Watch what happened with our Amy Biehl volunteer and what he did for us!
Thank you for all of your hard work Elliott!
Prosperity Works Staff