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Oakland-area high school seniors graduate from racial equity financial education program with new-found knowledge, and an $8,000 college scholarship

Partners PG&E, PG&E Foundation, UC Berkeley and Mills College at Northeastern to celebrate graduates of program aimed at closing wealth gap


By ONME Newswire


OAKLAND, Calif. -- Two dozen high school students will receive $8,000 scholarships as they graduate from the Economic Equity and Financial Education Program on Saturday (Feb. 10). The program is a two-semester advanced financial education course taught at the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, created and funded by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and The PG&E Corporation Foundation (PG&E Foundation).


This is the second class of students to successfully complete the rigorous academic program that accepted its first cohort in fall 2022. Each student will be awarded a college scholarship for completing the program.  


The Economic Equity and Financial Education Program began as a pilot program in fall 2022 to address wealth inequality and the racial wealth gap affecting African Americans in particular. PG&E and The PG&E Foundation partnered with the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley and Berkeley Executive Education, Mills College at Northeastern University, and Amenti Capital Group to prepare African American high school students from Oakland and the Greater Bay Area for future financial success and academic leadership. The program supports PG&E and The PG&E Foundation's Better Together Giving Program dedicated to bolstering people, the planet, and California's prosperity, and ensuring a safe and inclusive future for all.


Erikah Washington, a 17-year-old senior at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland with a 4.0-plus GPA, is one of the new graduates. She said she's grateful to have been part the program and wished that financial education was routinely taught in school.


"Through this program I have gained so much confidence and no longer view finances as something scary. With the knowledge obtained from the program I know I will make good financial decisions moving forward," said Washington.


PG&E created the program after two years of planning as a racial justice initiative following the George Floyd tragedy to help address economic challenges faced by African Americans, and together with The PG&E Foundation provided more than $500,000 in funding through its community charitable Better Together Giving Program to the program each year. Funding for the program comes from PG&E shareholders, not PG&E customers. This program is one of several funded by PG&E and The PG&E Foundation that provide support and scholarships to students throughout PG&E's service area as they pursue their higher education goals.


Students took courses taught by Berkeley Haas professors Panos Patatoukas and Sunil Dutta and financial industry professionals on topics including personal finance, capital markets and wealth creation, financial data analysis and investments. African American Haas undergraduates also mentored the high schoolers.


Mills College at Northeastern University TRIO Programs recruited the student participants as part of the Upward Bound program — which helps underserved high school students and first in their families attending college to succeed — and the Mills Educational Talent Search — which supports high school students achieving their higher education goals.


The curriculum was developed in collaboration with Patatoukas and Jason Miles, an African American venture capitalist with more than 25 years of experience in the financial services industry and founder of Amenti Capital Group.


"Addressing the challenge of access inequality and the wealth gap in the African American community is at the heart of our collaborative initiatives with PG&E and The PG&E Foundation," said Patatoukas of Berkeley Haas. "Our commitment to expanding financial education is unwavering, as we strive to create diverse, equitable, and inclusive learning environments. I look forward to celebrating the second graduating class of students from Oakland and the Bay Area in this impactful program."


"There is a tremendous pool of young African Americans who represent shining examples of future leaders. They must be empowered with practical investing knowledge early in their lives. We continue to be energized by the opportunity to catalyze generational wealth creation alongside like-minded partners and this talented class of students," said Miles of Amenti Capital Group. 


Information from the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances helped to shape the program's intent. The survey looked at disparities in wealth by race and ethnicity and noted that the typical white family had eight times the wealth of a typical Black family. The survey cites a number of complex factors across generations, including how individual savings and investment decisions contribute to wealth accumulation. The 2022 Survey of Consumer Finances released last year showed ratios slightly narrowed with white families having six times as much wealth as the typical Black family, but that "we remain far from racial equality, reflecting the large differences that have persisted for decades."


"We understand how the racial wealth gap contributes to inequality in California and we want to be part of the solution in narrowing that divide. Gaining early access to financial education is a critical step to helping these students create generational wealth. We also hope that these scholarships will support their access to college and continued academic success," said PG&E Senior Vice President of Customer Experience Vincent Davis. 


One student already charting success is Otis Ward, a graduate of last year's program who shared his journey in the PG&E short film "Change the System: Building Black Wealth."


The program is designed to provide wealth creation tools through an advanced financial education curriculum for high school students, and also to support post-secondary education achievement through scholarships for participants, funded by PG&E. It is hoped the program can serve as a model for future high school education curriculum.


About PG&EPacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE: PCG), is a combined natural gas and electric utility serving more than 16 million people across 70,000 square miles in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit pge.com and pge.com/news  


About The PG&E Corporation Foundation

The PG&E Corporation Foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, separate from PG&E and sponsored by PG&E Corporation.


About the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley 

As the second-oldest business school in the United States, Berkeley Haas has been questioning the status quo since its founding in 1898. Berkeley Haas offers outstanding management education to about 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students from around the world to attend one of its six degree-granting programs and join the school's network of 41,000 alumni worldwide.


About Berkeley Executive Education

UC Berkeley Executive Education serves leaders and organizations who aspire to redefine the future of business, delivering over 150 programs annually to a global audience. Its immersive learning experiences, led by renowned UC Berkeley faculty, equip global executives and their organizations with the vision and capabilities to thrive in an evolving world.


About Northeastern University

Founded in 1898, Northeastern is a global research university and the recognized leader in experience-driven lifelong learning. Our world-renowned experiential approach empowers our students, faculty, alumni, and partners to create impact far beyond the confines of discipline, degree, and campus.


Northeastern's comprehensive array of undergraduate and graduate programs—on-campus, online, and in hybrid formats—lead to degrees through the doctorate in nine colleges and schools. Among these, we offer more than 140 multi-discipline majors and degrees designed to prepare students for purposeful lives and careers.


About Amenti Capital Group

Amenti Capital Group is an emerging merchant bank that provides independent advisory services and venture capital to early-stage technology companies in high growth ecosystems. We leverage deep industry knowledge, operational expertise, and longstanding relationships to deliver attractive returns through our end-to-end model. We serve entrepreneurs and sophisticated investors while following our core principles of innovation, integrity and inclusion.

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