Ohio Wesleyan University student Reese Little is the first recipient of a new university-funded Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Grant. The grant program was launched this spring to support projects that advance the OWU campus as an antiracist space.
A junior from Short Hills, New Jersey, Little will use his DEI Grant to support an initiative he spearheaded fall semester when he created a campus chapter of First Generation Investors. The nonprofit 501(c)3 organization teaches high school students in underserved communities the power of investing and provides them with real money to invest.
“To be the first-ever recipient of the DEI grant is an honor,” said Little, a business administration major with a marketing concentration. “Around 30% of Black Americans have retirement accounts versus 60% of white Americans. Furthermore, 83% of all the money in the stock market is held by the richest 10% of Americans. First Generation Investors was created to help bridge the wealth gap and educate underserved communities on the powers of investing.
“This project is so important to me because I am literally changing the lives of these high schoolers,” said Little, who also is pursuing minors in both accounting and women’s and gender studies. “Finance/investing is never taught in general education, and I believe it is an extremely important life skill that will benefit not only these kids but their friends and family as well.”
First Generation Investors is an eight-week program that, beginning in week three, provides participants with $15 a week to invest in the stock market. They receive $25 during the final week, giving them $100 to invest overall.
Little said Ohio Wesleyan’s chapter currently has five OWU student-tutors and is serving 10 high school students from across the country. Nine of those participants are students of color and six are female, he said, “proving that our organization is striving to bring the number of women and people of color investing in stock to a greater percentage.”
Once the program shifts to in-person rather than online meetings, Little said, he expects more and more local high school students to participate.
“I believe that there are plenty of underserved students in this community who would greatly benefit from learning why, how, and when to invest into the stock market,” he said.
One of the local students participating in First Generation Investors is Trinity Harris, a junior at Hayes High School in Delaware.
“I’ve had a great time learning about the stock market and helping me get ready to invest by myself,” she said. “When you have a great group of people helping you learn, it’s super fun! … Buying a stock is you owning part of that company – how cool is that!”
Also participating is Anthonette Akinyemi, a sophomore at Constitution High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“I enjoyed the FGI program because it provided me with useful financial knowledge that I would not have learned in school,” Akinyemi said. “Buying stocks has always seemed risky to me, but this program has taught me how to minimize those risks.”
Ultimately, Little said, the program seeks to increase the number of “First Generation Investors,” teach underserved young people about long-term saving and the stock market, and show them how to participate in the investment economy. The overarching goal is to “help close the wealth gap by enabling large numbers of people to benefit from market returns.”
The OWU chapter’s first semester of programming was funded by the founding chapter of “First Generation Investors” at the University of Pennsylvania. The program was created by three students there in 2018.
Receiving an OWU DEI Grant will enable Little to expand the campus chapter to accept up to 25 higher schoolers in the fall. He also is looking to add more OWU student-tutors as well as a vice president of marketing. After graduating, Little hopes to work as a wealth management professional in New York City.
Ohio Wesleyan continues to accept student DEI Grant proposals this semester, with the application and review process overseen by the university’s Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The student grants may be up to $1,500 each.
“Ohio Wesleyan’s DEI Grants enable everyone on campus to think about and act upon ideas to improve the campus climate,” said Dawn Chisebe, Ohio Wesleyan’s interim chief diversity officer and chair of the DEI Council. “Everyone is excited by the potential the grants have to help us continue to advance the university and the environment it provides.”
Learn more about the national First Generation Investors program at www.firstgenerationinvestors.com, more about OWU’s business administration major at www.owu.edu/business, and more about Ohio Wesleyan’s DEI Grant program at www.owu.edu/DEIGrants.