Citi Partners with Community to Generate Positive Cycles of Change for Students

“Think of our work as helping students create positive cycles of change for themselves and their communities,” said Rebecca Macieira-Kaufmann, President of Citibank California, at the Financial Literacy and College Persistence conference held on January 18 at Menlo College in Atherton, CA.

Citi Community Development collaborates on innovative programs to increase financial awareness in five core areas: financial capability and asset building, micro finance, enterprise development, neighborhood revitalization, and college success.

“I’ve personally been involved with Menlo College since 2010 when we had the pleasure of assisting and launching a Citi-sponsored program called “Learn and Invest for Tomorrow” or LIFT which at its core is focused on using financial literacy to enable more low to moderate income youth to make a successful transition into college,” said Macieira-Kaufmann.

LIFT offered two 6-week courses to low to moderate income high school seniors from Woodside High School and the course was taught on campus by Menlo College professors and Citi executives. These professionals taught the basics of financial literacy including budgeting and saving, understanding banking products, using credit wisely, and recognizing and avoiding predatory lending or investment schemes.

“We’ve been a sponsor of this program now for two years and the results have been very impressive,” said Macieira-Kaufmann. “We’re thrilled: 96% of students reported they are able to manage their own money and 81% reported that they are now helping their families and their friends with financial issues, especially budgeting. We think that is a great impact. Most importantly, 85% reported that LIFT courses helped them to prepare for college and that same 85% actually enrolled and went to college. These results are precisely the kind of impact Citi wants to realize, positive impact in the communities where we live and work.”

Another example of Citi’s partnerships is Kindergarten to College (K to C). “It has received a lot of press attention,” said Macieira-Kaufmann. “In late 2010, we partnered with the City and County of San Francisco to introduce K to C, the nation’s first universal savings program. Research has shown that children with a savings account held in their name are seven times more likely to attend college than those who don’t have a savings account. So we developed a savings account that would be automatically opened for every kindergartener entering the San Francisco Unified School district. What fun!”

The San Francisco City and County government provided seed deposits of up to $100 per child and private philanthropy matched the first $100 contributed by each family so they could get to $200 very quickly.

“Our investment in K to C has paid off,” emphasized Macieira-Kaufmann. “To date, we have opened 8,000 accounts for kindergartners. The program is operational in all 72 of the San Francisco elementary school districts. 61% of the families who are savers are low to moderate income. So far, these families have put in and saved over $150,000 in two years.”

Citi’s key partnerships with the community have impacted the college-bound aspirations of local youth. Macieira-Kaufmann recalled, “On a recent visit to a participating K to C school, our former CEO and I asked kindergarteners in various classrooms a question, ‘Where are you going to go?’ In each classroom, twenty-five four-year olds all enthusiastically yelled,  ‘College!’ Spine-tingling. A powerful sight to see!”