In 2014, my 16 year old son asked me what credit was and I didn’t have a concrete answer. Being an FII family and seeing the financial improvements I have made since joining, I wondered what would happen if we gave these same resources to youth. With this thought and my son Raquawn’s, Ray for short, question in mind I started RAYs, Reliable Youth of Unlimited success. I have a strong belief that focusing on providing financial literacy to the youth alleviates issues down the road.
I pitched my idea to FII staff and they encouraged me to turn it to a reality. I wrote a proposal highlighting the details of my plan, submitted it to FII, and it got approved. FII agreed to afford any youth that wanted to be in RAYs some of the same provision’s they give to families FII granted them each a laptop and a quarterly stipend for submitting data about financial and nonfinancial areas of their lives. They also provided a meeting space for me to facilitate the meetings. I held the first information session in October of 2014 and in November of 2014 RAYs had its first meeting.
RAYs is a youth initiative that gives peers a better understanding of topics they don’t get at school. We hold voter registration drives to encourage youth to be politically active, have candidate forums to directly engage with policy makers, and speak to different community leaders who provide both life and career advice. With RAYs, I like to focus on fostering better self and community awareness. I want to make sure black and brown youth take pride in where they come from. I want our youth to know that even if they make mistakes they can still stay on track and be something. A poor decision does not define you as a person.
Today we have seven committed students who meet monthly. I’m looking forward to seeing RAYs grow. In the future, I envision RAYs becoming incorporated. I want it to expand beyond FII-Boston to FII nationally and even more. Hopefully RAYs can serve as a roadmap for other organizations on how to be a one-stop-shop focusing on youth. FII helped me see my own potential and invested in me. I wanted to spread this same belief and investment to young people. It’s important that we teach our youth to follow their dreams, even if they don’t think they have the background or skills to do it. Our youth are our future and with FII’s backing, I’m excited to see how RAYs can have a positive impact on young lives.