2011 News

CSD research assistant receives social change grant for innovative asset-building and mentorship initiative

David Githinji, an MSW student at the Brown School and a Research Assistant at the School’s Center for Social Development (CSD), has been awarded a $5,000 Social Change Grant by the Richard A. Gephardt Institute for Public Service at Washington University in St. Louis.

The Social Change Grant program provides essential funding and mentorship to students to develop and implement innovative social change projects over the summer.

Githinji’s project will significantly expand the reach and scope of an asset-building and mentorship program—the Dollar-A-Day program—that he created for Kenyan immigrant youth in St. Louis in 2010. With funding from the Social Change Grant program, he will pilot an 8-week intensive summer program for the same target population. The program will continue to provide financial education and support for youth to save in their Dollar-A-Day accounts, while also providing leadership training. Over the course of the program, Githinji will also establish a system for ongoing monitoring of student academic performance during the school year.

An immigrant himself and a parent, Githinji conceived the project as a way to address the unique challenges faced by immigrant youth. After he and his wife came to the US with their two sons, Githinji reports that it was difficult to be available to provide guidance and emotional support to their children while working long hours to put food on the table. “I also witnessed that the situation was not unique to me but was affecting the large Kenyan immigrant population in St. Louis,” he notes. It was this realization that inspired Githinji to develop the Dollar A Day initiative.

The St. Louis-based initiative, established in April, 2010, serves 50 youth aged 13-18 whose parents are immigrants from Kenya. The aims of the program are to empower Kenyan immigrant youth with the information they need to be successful in the United States, and inculcate a savings culture that can help them secure their future. Youth meet once a week to develop knowledge of life skills like career choice, courtship, entrepreneurship, time management, financial discipline, and character development. The speakers are drawn almost entirely from the Kenyan immigrant community so that the youth can identify with them as role models. There is also an asset-building component to the program, under which youth are encouraged to save a dollar a day at a minimum. Youth in the group have already saved a total of almost $10,000.