Officials at One United Bank said they are “proud to announce” the recent winners of the “I Got Bank Essay and Art Contest”. The ten awardees, ages 12 and under, each received a $1000 savings account for submitting a winning essay or piece of art on financial literacy. The contest is part of One United’s larger initiative to educate youth and adults about smart money management.
OneUnited Bank also recently launched its Financial Education Center with online playlists on Financial Basics, Major Life Decisions, Starting a Career, Small Business and Preventing Elder Fraud.
The winners were: Dontaye Ball Jr., 11, San Francisco, CA, Ziontaye Ball, 11, San Francisco, CA, Evan Corgain, 10, Brocton MA, Jaedin Feaster, 8, Roxbury, MA, Layla Gaston, 8, Havre de Grace, MD, Ryder Noell, 11, Stuttgart, AR, Aaliyah Omitogun, 12, Suitland MD, Michelle Oppong, 9, Los Angeles, CA, Obi Owusu-Bonsu, 12, Los Angeles, CA and Cierra Yoakum, 10, Los Angeles, CA, who contest officials said, “impressed the judges with how well their submissions expressed their journey with money in a very personalized way.”
The panel of judges included Teri Williams, president and CEO of OneUnited. The idea for the contest sprang from a book Williams wrote while holding financial literacy workshops with a group of financial educators, in adopted schools.
“We wanted to adopt some schools in our community to teach financial literacy,” Williams recalled during an interview with the Sentinel earlier this year.
“We wanted to identify some books for a curriculum that we could use. We looked at books that were available. We looked online we looked in bookstores and really couldn’t find anything that talked about the issues that our community has to deal with.
“There were more books that talked about kids having lemonade stands in front of white picket fences, things like that. They didn’t include anything about things that we see in our community like check cashers, check systems records, bad credit scores etc…
Williams initially set out to write a pamphlet for her students, but the story of a boy named Jazz became a 60 page book called “I Got Bank”. The story follows 9 year old Jazz Ellington who managed to save $2000 but has a mom, brother and sister too eager to help him spend it. In the book, the boy struggles with the need to protect his savings, while helping his family at the same time.
Issues like that, said Williams, are a reality for children in low income communities across the country.
“An issue that [families of color] often experience is that there are one or two people in the family who are doing okay,” Williams said.
“And people in the family are more like ‘you’ve got all this, why don’t you help me’ So, how do you move forward while at the same time help your family. How do you deal with the guilt, how do you deal with the anger and at the same time the love that you have for your family?”
Williams began offering her book at no cost to libraries and middle schools across the U.S. and to date, more than 3,000 copies have been donated in 37 states. The contest urges participants to keep with the book’s theme of financial literacy and stability, while creating an art project or writing a 250 word essay. Winners were announced August 31. For more information on the contest visit oneunited.com’s financial literacy blog.