- Faith & Family
Teri Williams is one of the nation’s most-respected women in business. At 54, she is a graduate of Brown University, has an MBA from Harvard and has been in financial services for over 30 years. What’s more, she is the president and a member of the board of directors for OneUnited Bank — the largest minority-owned bank in the U.S. But her latest mission has been to help young children gain a foothold in understanding the intricacies of finance. She says she got the idea after looking for books that would help urban youth improve their financial literacy only to discover that there was nothing that spoke directly to them or the world in which they lived.
“I grew up in a rural community named Indian Town in South Florida and then in the projects of Bridgeport, Connecticut,” she said. “I knew nothing about money as a child except that some people had it — a lot of it — and we [Blacks] didn’t. I find that many of our Black children are just as unaware and confused as I was. I became determined to inform them.”
With the support of OneUnited Bank and with her own creativity, Williams wrote a book for children, “I Got Bank!: What My Granddad Taught Me About Money.” The book features a young Black boy named Jazz Ellington, who at 10-years-old, already has over $2,000 in his savings account. But while his grandfather taught him how to increase his savings, his mother, sister and brother are all trying to spend his money.
“The story needed to be told in an urban setting not the suburbs,” Williams said. “Our children need to know about ChexSystems and the preponderance of check cashing businesses — they need to be comfortable with the world of finance.”
Williams recently spent time with 60 children at the Richard Allen Leadership Academy in Miami Gardens and says it was the best workshop she’s ever held.
“Those kids were amazing and we’re going to do even more for the children of South Florida,” she said. “I am truly on a mission and I am inspired by what I see.”
True to her word, her bank is sponsoring an essay contest for children, 8 to 12, on money matters. Prizes include a $1,000 savings bond. Williams will also do a workshop for non-profit organizations, schools or libraries and provide books for free. For more information go to www.oneunited.com/book.
By D. Kevin McNeir