A Plan to Help Harlem Students Build Wealth: Start Them Off With $10,000

A New York City nonprofit group, flush with millions in private capital, is piloting a first-of-its-kind savings program to address the racial wealth gap — by giving thousands of students in Harlem $10,000 each to invest.

The Harlem Children’s Zone, an influential anti-poverty organization, said it is raising $300 million for an initiative called Wealth Builds that will launch in Upper Manhattan, where the group operates, and expand to 10 other cities, including Atlanta and Minneapolis.

The group said it has already raised enough money to provide the funds to more than 2,200 youths: the entire student body at two charter schools it runs called Promise Academy, from kindergarten to 12th grade.

And most of the students don’t know it yet.

“The parents will definitely lose their minds,” Kwame Owusu-Kesse, the nonprofit’s chief executive, said with a smile, after a tour of one of the schools.

A kindergartner enrolled this year in the program could expect the $10,000 allotment, which will be controlled by professional money managers, to accrue interest of about 5 percent a year, Mr. Owusu-Kesse said. At the age of 25, the student could have roughly $26,000 in savings.

Admittance into the Promise Academy schools is decided through a lottery system with preference given to the local district, which is predominantly lower income.

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