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JPMorgan Chase is helping students at the College of Staten Island (CSI) and underserved elementary and middle school students on the Island with an $80,000 grant for the SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge )/Strategies for Success program. In addition, this grant supported the initial stage of a partnership with Curtis High School as a “community school model” completing the pipeline for students from the elementary to the college level.

The mission of the SEEK/Strategies for Success Program, which is administered by the Division of Student Affairs, is to deliver academic assistance to the most disadvantaged intermediate and elementary school children enrolled in after-school programs at Title I schools and local community centers. In addition to the academic assistance, college students offer personal support to the children. Through educational games, arts and crafts, and self-esteem workshops, the children are encouraged to recognize and celebrate their talents and abilities.

The second aspect of the program’s mission is to provide CSI students, drawn largely from the SEEK Program, with a chance to further their development beyond the classroom. The program provides work experience that helps undergraduates clarify their own career goals, and build their own academic and personal skills. At the same time, “Strategies” provides a college work experience, where students can put into practice, theories learned in the classroom, as many are Education majors. Being involved in the development of youth they learn civility, acceptance, and a deeper understanding of the community and the diversity of its population. With the support of this grant, Strategies for Success was able to secure interventions on the high school level at Curtis. SAT preparation courses were conducted at Curtis High School, further preparing students for the college level. Direct partnerships were formed with Curtis and various areas of the college, including the Psychology and Performing and Creative Arts Departments.

SEEK/Strategies for Success has been instrumental in bringing together CSI with public schools, educational organizations, community centers, and private foundations to create resources and interventions that are critical to the well-being of children and families in the Staten Island community.

In regard to JPMorgan Chase’s contribution to “Strategies,” Gloria Garcia, Director of the College’s SEEK  Program, commented, “Through the generous grant provided by JPMorgan Chase, elementary and middle school children learn about saving, spending, donating, and investing money. They learn, hands-on, how math works in their everyday lives. College students participating in the Financial Literacy workshops also learn these important principals through their involvement in the project. This past February, college students in the program attended an “Identity Theft Awareness” workshop at CSI. The Strategies team invited a JPMorgan Chase Vice President and a Personal Banker to conduct the workshop, and the 17 CSI students who attended reported positive outcomes from the workshop.”

Garcia added that “The Financial Literacy Strategies for Success team is taking their commitment to the teaching of financial success one step further. The Strategies for Success Workshop Facilitator will be conducting 20 Financial Literacy Workshops this summer. Through this effort, approximately 2,000 first-semester CSI freshmen will take part in money management workshops conducted by the Financial Literacy team through the CSI New Student Orientation Program.”

Georgia Landrum, Strategies for Success Program Associate Director stated, “It is amazing how quickly our young participants pick up on the basics of financial literacy and the many terms that Jennifer Sullivan, our workshop facilitator, teaches them. We were thrilled when we read our surveys and found that as a result of the project, most of our third-grade children understood what the term ‘bull market’ meant.”

How do the public school students who receive this training feel about this program? A third grader at PS 57 said, “When you save your money in the bank, you earn interest.” A sixth grader at IS 49 noted, “[I learned] what credit is and how to avoid identity theft. I learned how important it is to protect your identity.”

Francesca Navarro, a Business Management major at CSI who is one of the mentors, underscored the importance of the program, “A lot of children are not exposed to financial education and it is important for our youth to be knowledgeable so that we do not repeat the current economic recession.”

When asked why JPMorgan Chase opted to back this program Seth Edwards, Vice President, Community Relations, JPMorgan Chase, said, “At JPMorgan Chase, we are committed to providing financial education to all those who live in the communities in which we serve. The financial knowledge and skills that these students are acquiring will serve them in good stead their entire lives. Therefore, it is our pleasure to support this Strategies for Success initiative.”