Many young people are aspiring entrepreneurs. The first critical step in launching a successful business is educating and training our youth. Money management is key to effective planning, ensuring longer-term sustainability and viability.
Detroiter Gail Perry-Mason is playing a major role in developing entrepreneurs and in educating youth. She is an entrepreneur, author, speaker and financial coach and is a respected authority in the financial industry. Perry-Mason recognizes the necessity of teaching youth the importance of money management. In fact, she founded the original “Money Camp for Teens” and the first youth investment club in Detroit. Now, known as “Money Matters for Youth”, Perry-Mason has instructed over 6,000 young people in metro-Detroit and has mentored over 25 young women who are now professionals in the financial industry. Additionally, she’s taking her message to the Detroit Public Schools by implementing a program that teaches financial literacy and outlines the steps to entrepreneurship.
While extremely visible across the Motor City through her association with many community organizations, I recently caught up with Perry-Mason to have her share thoughts on the importance of financial management for youth, giving back and her commitment to Detroit.
Lee: You’re an entrepreneur. What drove you to start your own business?
Perry-Mason: I consider my self a self-starter and my passion is to be a Change Agent…change lives where people learn the value of themselves and how to empower one another. The business I started was Money Matters for Youth.
Lee: You’re also committed to Detroit and recently moved back to the city from the suburbs. What fueled your passion for the city?
Perry-Mason: My roots bring me back home and I know I need to plant more seeds and make a difference. Currently, I serve on several boards in our city from Detroit Development Fund to Harper Hutzel Hospital (formally Women’s Hospital) where I was born and left to become a ward of the state. It is my honor to serve our city any way I can.
Lee: You launched a program twenty years ago called “Money Matters for Youth”. What is it and why did you start it?
Perry-Mason: This program was launched because of a need I saw in our youth and I wish I had known more about financial literacy growing up. I don’t want our youth to be P.O.O.R. ( Passed Over Opportunity Repeatedly). I know in order to save our children we must serve them first.
Lee: What are the program’s objectives of the program and who are the target audiences?
Perry-Mason: The program targets youth ages 8-18. We divide up into Small Cap – ages 8-10, Mid Cap – ages 10-13, and Large Cap – ages 13 and up (highschool). Most of our youth come from the metro Detroit area.
Lee: Please describe the process participants go through as part of this program.
Perry-Mason: The youth learn how to shave, spend, and save, but it all starts with giving and learning the value of themselves and others. The following are a list of some key items the camp touches on. Each day’s activities will vary and include field trips, hands-on activities, and guest speakers in addition. Participants will understand wants vs. need, prepare a basic budget/spending plan, the purpose of savings and investment instruments, the role of financial institutions and credit, nature and experience of entrepreneurship, education leads to a desirable lifestyle, importance of a healthy lifestyle, importance of giving back with a project and participants will write thank you letters every day. Gratitude and attitude are the keys to economic empowerment.
Lee: How many participants do you have and what’s happened to those whom have completed it?
Perry-Mason: Many of the investors (participants) are currently working in the financial service industry. Some volunteer at the camp and many have started a business like Amiya Alexander who started Amiya’s Mobile Dance Academy (www.amiyasdancebus.com) and we all have become like family over the years.
Lee: Why is this such a passion for you?
Perry-Mason: It is my passion and purpose because I use money as only a tool to reach our youth, but my passion is to teach them how to turn their passion into payment. I want to teach them that they all have value and God given gifts. Our youth need to know that we all care and are willing to invest in them.
Lee: With all of the daily pressure confronting young people, what advice would you give to them as they’re plotting their futures?
Perry-Mason: Drink, Steal, Swear, & Lie: Drink from the everlasting cup daily, Steal a moment of time to gain knowledge and to help others, Swear to be a better person than you were yesterday and Lie down and thank God for your blessings daily.
Lee: How do readers get more information?