Chris Banks lost his father, Marlon, when he was killed in a shooting 10 years ago.
“That was the expedited wake-up call that I needed to remind me that I didn’t want anyone else to ever have to experience the pain and grief,” said Banks, a 2010 journalism alumnus.
After that tragic personal loss, Banks said he began to recognize the importance of planning and structure for raising a healthy family.
To share those lessons with others, Banks, who works as a finance and policy analyst at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, founded the nonprofit Banksgiving last year to educate Philadelphia youth on financial literacy.
Banks, a first-generation college graduate, frequently moved among neighborhoods when he was growing up and never learned how to manage his finances.
“I want to help the next generation avoid the mistakes of their elders and myself,” Banks said. “And in order to live a financially healthy life, they need to be taught the essentials about money.”
Since spring, Banks has hosted three free seminars at Temple, mainly for middle school and high school students, about different aspects of personal finance, like understanding money management and investing in the stock market. His upcoming seminar in January will focus on the business of fashion.
On Nov. 24, Banks will host “BanksFriday,” where he will open bank accounts for students who attended at least two out of three seminars and deposit $50 of his fundraised money into each account. He said he also plans to give condensed seminars at both middle and high schools.
“The mission is just, in short, to give a lot of kids who look like me some of the knowledge and experiences I wish I had when I was their age,” Banks said.
Banks said he “organically” recruits attendees for his seminars, often inviting kids he meets on the street in Philadelphia.
His friends have also helped direct young students to the program. Michael Schieber, a high school friend and now athletic director of Bodine High School for International Affairs in Northern Liberties, has sent several of his students to a seminar.
While Bodine offers business classes, Schieber said financial literacy is not fully covered in his school. He said Banksgiving provides an opportunity for students to expand their knowledge and show off what they have already learned in school.
“To see that direct return [of education on financial literacy] on a program you sent your kids to is just exciting,” Schieber said. “He’s done so much for the kids at my school.”
One of Schieber’s students, Zuha Mutan, who lives in North Philadelphia, said she could relate to Banks because of their shared experiences. The two both grew up in low-income North Philadelphia families.
“Hearing from someone who was so young actually having a business set [up] was eye-opening,” said Mutan, the senior class president at Bodine.
Mutan has attended all three of Banks’ seminars so far. At the first one in March, she met Tosin Oduwole, a real estate developer and vice president of business development for the Jay Morrison Academy, an Atlanta-based real estate development and wealth education school.
Oduwole presented about the importance of investing in property at a young age. After Mutan answered some questions during his speech, the two spoke afterward and began networking on Instagram. He offered to pay for her to attend six 10-hour pre-licensing classes required to obtain her license in real estate.
“That was the first time I ever considered real estate,” Mutan said. “He was like, ‘Listen, you get your license. Once you pass, I’ll help you sell your first property and we’ll split the profit half and half.’”
Mutan completed the courses and needs to pass an additional exam after she turns 18 in December to obtain the license.
After attending the first two Banksgiving seminars, Mutan said she brought about 50 of her peers to attend the most recent seminar in September.
“They all loved it,” Mutan said. “We ran out of chairs and booklets because so many more people came than people who actually registered.”
Through his organization, Banks said he wants to show Philadelphia youth they can rise out of disadvantaged circumstances just like he did.
“I know that these kids have similar experiences where their parents aren’t around or in jail,” Banks said. “And I’m proof that you don’t have to make a negative situation worse. There is a way out.”