Tishaura Jones Offers an Example to Eliminate the Racial Wealth Gap at “Bold & Brilliant Women”

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The problem of racial wealth disparity continues to be an issue across the country. According to a Pew Research Center study, as of 2013, the wealth of white households was 13 times the median wealth of black households and 10 times the median wealth of Hispanic households.

Closing this wealth gap is and empowering people to take control of their finances are subjects close to Tishaura Jones’ heart. In addition to being treasurer for the City of St. Louis, Jones has a bachelor’s degree in finance from Hampton University and is a former vice president of municipal finance for Blaylock Robert Van, so she has a thorough understanding of the importance of financial savvy. Jones also has personal experience in getting off track financially, having experienced a personal bankruptcy when she was younger—a lesson from which it took her years to recover.

“I’m concerned about the state of personal finance for people of color and low- and medium-income people,” Jones says. “I look at St. Louis and see vast disparity between whites and African Americans.”

So Jones decided to find a way to leverage her power to shrink that wealth gap. In her upcoming talk at TEDxGatewayArch’s “Bold & Brilliant Women” event on Dec. 5, Jones provides hope to members of the community who experience this financial disparity in their own lives by using the example of a successful program she spearheaded through the City of St. Louis Treasurer’s Office called College Kids Children’s Savings Account.

The program, which was implemented in 2015, starts a savings account for every kindergarten student in St. Louis public and charter schools with an initial $50 deposit, funded by residual parking revenue from parking tickets, meters and city-owned garages as well as private donations. Families can grow the account with incentives like matched savings amounts, attendance bonuses and bonuses paid when parents attend financial education courses. The program currently has more than 13,000 children participating, with a total savings amount of almost $1 million.

“It helps teach the families as well as the kids,” Jones says of the program, adding that kids who save even a modest amount are statistically more likely to attend and graduate from college. Jones puts her passion for savings to work in her own family as well—her 12-year-old son, Aden, is involved in actively saving for his own education.

As well as being excited to promote financial responsibility, she’s also excited to be hitting the TEDx stage for the first time—she says doing her own TED talk has been on her bucket list for a while, even before Steve Sommers, executive director and co-founder of TEDxGatewayArch, asked her to give it a go.

“I always wanted to do one,” she says. “It’s exciting and terrifying.”

General admission and VIP tickets are available online for TEDxGatewayArchWomen’s “Bold & Brilliant Women,” which will feature live 18-minute talks interspersed with sets from musical guests including Tonina Saputo and Rubi. Groups of 30 or more can contact Steve@tedxgatewayarch.org for information on promotional rates.

TEDx events are independently run, with a goal of sharing ideas within communities—and in St. Louis, all of those on stage must have local connections. Featured speakers Dec. 5 at The Ferrara Theater at America’s Center include Sophia E. Hayes, a professor of chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis who speaks with optimism about what we can do to combat climate change, and Dr. Leilani Carver-Madalon, Associate (Tenured ) Professor of Strategic Communication and Leadership at Maryville University, who promotes the concept of empowering authentic confidence.

Featured image courtesy of TEDxGatewayArch.

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