On the heels of a successful Summer Camp where children got to get a glimpse of starting and running a business, CEOs of Tomorrow is pivoting to focus on a big development for the organization that helps teens learn how to earn and manage their money.
CEOs of Tomorrow focuses on the development of skills that allow young people to be smart with their money and learn how they can set themselves up for success through their own innovation and effort. CEOs of Tomorrow Founder and Executive Director Roxie Hentz highlights how that important work has resulted in their ability to reach even more youth in the Madison area.
“We do financial wellness education because our youth make quite a bit of money with their businesses, and all of our teens have savings accounts once they join CEOs of Tomorrow,” Hentz told Madison365. “We believe in teaching youth how to be really smart with their funds. So the city of Madison approached CEOs of Tomorrow a year and a half ago, and asked us if we would write a curriculum for all youth organizations in Madison to integrate financial wellness education into their curriculum. That publication came out spring of 2021, and we did it in partnership with our partners at Summit Credit Union. It’s really focused on youth who are unbanked and underserved, and lack access to banking resources. Working to close the wealth gap as it relates to youth of color, and also low income youth.”
The curriculum used at CEOs of Tomorrow, which aligns with the National Business Education Association’s personal finance standards, is an important aspect of the organization’s practice that keeps teens informed on the latest strategies and know-how when it comes to different types of financial institutions, different ways to save and manages money, and how to spend and budget intelligently. The benefit of learning these skills is not only personal, as Hentz was excited to share the news of CEOs of Tomorrow’s new Teen Money Mentors program which gives teens who are engaged and active in CEOs of Tomorrow a chance to pass on their skills and knowledge.
“Along with that, CEOs of Tomorrow launched Teen Money Mentors,” Hentz said. “We have hired teens from our program who we’ve trained in financial wellness education, and they’re now available to go out into these youth organizations and provide peer to peer hands on engaging financial wellness education. For youth organizations, churches, and anyone who works with youth. All of these activities are pretty cool. How to read a paycheck, how to budget from a kid’s perspective, how to use credits, how to create safe passwords, and all the curriculum that’s in our book. It allows youth leaders to call on our teams to teach in their organizations, churches, and facilities.”
Destiny Flowers, a soon-to-be sophomore at Madison Memorial High School, reflected on how the task of presenting their work to peers has been a rewarding experience as well as learning new skills.
“Working as a Teen Money Mentor has taught me that I am great at interacting with participants in an audience, which is something I didn’t know about myself before participating in this amazing program,” she said.
The potential for such a program is directly in line with the mission and intended outcomes of the work that CEOs of Tomorrow both facilitates and promotes. Hentz spoke on her experiences studying in South Africa where a mentor pushed her to think about how her ideas on a curriculum of entrepreneurship in education could also include teaching on how entrepreneurs can impact their social settings positively. This was the driving force that resulted in what Hentz sees as the social entrepreneurial focus of CEOs of Tomorrow today.
“All of our youth launch businesses for social good,” Hentz said. “That means they learn how to launch a business like anyone would, but equally correlated to that is now how do I use my business to attack these issues that I see are pressing my family, my community, my neighborhood, and sometimes even the world. Our youth have addressed issues like racism, immigration reform, women’s rights, global warming, police brutality, and the list goes on and on. What we found is that our youth no longer have to sit back and watch things happen around them and be affected by it and traumatized by it. We can give them a platform to stand strong and do something about these issues and feel like they’re contributing to helping relieve them and making an impact.”
CEOs of Tomorrow has five different programs available for teens looking to get involved that offer a variety of skill-building opportunities. Across the programs there is potential for teens in the Madison area, as well as across the country, and even globally. However, the one thing each program shares are the lessons they instill in the teens who participate and engage with CEOs of Tomorrow.
“It is about having an entrepreneurial mindset,” said Hentz. “If you can think like an entrepreneur that applies to every career, such as how to fail forward. Our students have a hard time adjusting to failure, but failure is just an opportunity to grow. Entrepreneurship teaches failing forward, resilience, and how to bounce back when something doesn’t go your way. Entrepreneurship also teaches self confidence, and all these traits are things that we know our youth need today. Particularly as they navigate these difficult waters that exist in our country around these issues. Also, this sense of self impact. I can make a difference, I don’t have to wait for adults to do it, I can join them or do it on my own. I have a voice, and my voice matters. That’s another skill that we’re building.”
Activating the drive and passion in young people is something that is reflected in the experiences and sentiments of the teen participants as Fatima Romero, upcoming Freshman at La Follette High School, speaks to, “Working with Teen Money Mentors has taught me to be more independent with my money in many ways such as how to spend it and save it. I also learned what a pay stub and a certificate of deposit are. I knew very little about money before being with Teen Money Mentors. My highlight of working with Teen Money Mentors was that I got to meet a lot of nice new people and get to know them.”
The potential that young people have when they are led to engage with the opportunities around them is something that CEOs of Tomorrow looks to tap into by educating teens on just how much they can achieve. Hentz is not convinced that CEOs of Tomorrow is exclusive in their ability to do exactly that, as the practice of pushing teens to achieve and uncovering sometimes obscured resources can start at home and in the schools themselves.
“There are so many dual credit courses that all the schools offer that our families don’t know about,” said Hentz. “Some of the courses our students are already taking in school, and they could be earning college credits for them. Reaching out because, unfortunately right now, that information isn’t just readily available, you’ve got to ask for it. Reaching out to supporters, or parents themselves going into the schools and asking about these dual credit opportunities that their students can benefit from will save them lots of money if they choose to go to college. Not that they have to. There’s multiple ways to be successful, but if they do choose to, they’ll have a gamut of free college credits that they have earned in high school.”
As the leader of an organization that looks to provide opportunity and resources to the youth community in Madison and beyond, Hentz was positive that any other organizations looking to do the same were not competitors, but allies in the mission to provide service to underserved youth. The possibilities start right here in Madison, and Hentz wants people to know that their search for organizations that provide resources and community can be fruitful.
“There are so many opportunities that exist here in Madison,” Hentz said. “Really encourage your young people, especially kids of color, to take advantage of all of these opportunities that exist. Each one can lead to and open another door, either figuratively or literally, open a door for your child. Then also, look for organizations and partnerships with your kids that place and see them as who they are. Meaning they don’t have to arm up to change to be someone else, who they are is good enough. They don’t have to try to assimilate or modify who they are. A place where the staff love and care for them as individuals. Seeking out places where their kids can really thrive in safe, nurturing, and encouraging environments.”