Walking A Red Carpet of Purpose

And the Oscar goes to....

This familiar phrase, preceded by butterflies in the stomach and high anticipation, was heard many times on Hollywood’s most celebrated night. On Sunday, I had the privilege of representing Donorschoose.org and walking a different kind of red carpet – a red carpet of purpose - with PwC.


RedCarpet2 Shayne and I with Shannon Schuyler from PwC.



This was a special honor for me, not only because I had the opportunity to meet Shannon Schuyler, the Chief Purpose Officer at PwC, and change makers like HeForShe advocate Richard Lui and famed fashion designer Carrie Hammer, but because advocating for financial literacy has been my personal mission for the last six years.

Here’s why:

There I was, sitting on my friend’s couch watching her two children run around playfully. She was telling me her story of how she and her husband thought they were making good choices. They both attended college. She went to a state school and he went to two private schools for a bachelor’s and a masters degree in public service. Fast forward 5 years and they are in a combined debt of $250,000 and barely make enough to pay the bills. “How did we get here?” she whispered to herself, “How did we get here?”

Sadly, she is not the only one in that situation. Many of my peers played by the rules; both spoken and unspoken. They stayed out of trouble and finished high school with honors. They then went onto good state or private universities but now they’re either still searching for good paying job or have an income that is well below the amount needed to offset the debt load they signed up for.

After my friend’s story sunk in, I started shaking my head, “What went wrong? Where did you miss a turn? Why are so many people educated and broke?”

This conversation happened 6 years ago, right around the time I had my financial epiphany, which caused my husband and I to eagerly start our journey of paying off almost $100,000 of debt.

Throughout our journey and continually seeking out the answer for ‘How did we end up educated and broke?’, I believe I finally found my answer.


RedCarpet3 Representing educators and Donorschoose.org on the red carpet with PwC!

Our financial foundation is developed like our other schemas, through experiences and the culture of our upbringing. If you were brought up in a home where every dollar is spent, chances are high that you will eventually run a household where every dollar is spent. If you were raised with parents who shared the importance of saving 10% of your income in an investment account, chances are you did just that.

As humans, over 50% of our character and beliefs are built through learning from those closest to us. So what did you learn? Even more importantly, what are you teaching, either directly or indirectly, to your children or your students?

Being raised in a single parent home, my mother, a dynamic educator herself, did the best she could with the information she had available. She understood the importance of getting a solid education that included the arts, in order to maximize our opportunities. Even though she was skilled in many areas, finances weren’t one of them, and raising four kids on a meager teacher’s salary meant she had to be creative and resourceful. It turns out she wasn’t savvy in finances because she wasn’t taught. This happens to be the story in many families.


This is a generational issue.

We’re taught to follow the law but not taught to save.
We’re taught to study hard but not taught ways to create passive income.
We’re taught to give (which is VERY important) but not taught to invest.


In many households, especially in the demographic where I come from, conversations about investments, savings, assets versus liabilities, and the difference between appreciating and depreciating items rarely occur. All we hear is study and get your degree and then you’ll make it out of the ghetto and have a successful life.


Now, because of the plight of student loans, this is no longer true.


There’s more that is needed in this dialogue and PcW has begun to address this. In 2012, PwC announced a $190 million commitment to advance financial literacy called ‘Earn Your Future’. The goal was to positively impact more than 2.5 million students and teachers across the US and they sought out some amazing organizations to reach this feat, one of them being Donorschoose.org.

Even though they have partnered with Donorschoose.org since 2009, last year PwC launched a dynamic campaign supporting 3rd -12th grade teachers with curriculum that teaches financial literacy which is the time when students are still forming their beliefs systems about money.


It doesn’t matter how smart and ambitious you are, if you have no basic understand about finances, life will be tougher than it needs to be. Recently our nation has had a negative savings rate and many American families have significant credit debt and student loans.

We have to be intentional about doing better in this area AND intentional about teaching the next generation about starting their financial journey on the right foot.


I am so thankful that PwC has a focused their social responsibility on educating our youth in financial literacy and that Donorschoose.org is using their platform to reach as many teachers and students as they can. There is hope and change will come. Let’s equip our students with the best tools so they can live their BEST life!


Genein Letford, Educator

Donorschoose.org Board Member


P.S Click here to see the Huffington Post Live stream of the event!