Cents Ability, Inc.

Cents Ability creates positive local change by providing underserved teens in the NYC metro area with the tools of financial literacy.

Photo of Diane Ezer
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Written by


  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States


  • Woman

Where are you making a difference?

New York, NY Metropolitan Area

Focus Areas (required)

  • Business & Social Enterprise
  • Children & Youth
  • Civic Engagement
  • Development & Prosperity

Date Started


Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)


  • $100k - $250k

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)


Twitter URL


Facebook URL


LinkedIn URL


1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.

When Alexa DuPont and John Moore graduated from Harvard University in 2004, they were like most young adults. Excited and optimistic by life's possibilities -- and overwhelmed by the challenges of personal finance. This made them realize that many other young people were going through the same experience but without the advantages of resources and an upbringing that stressed financial literacy. They founded Cents Ability to give underserved young adults in the New York City metro area the power of financial literacy. Please read about Alexa here: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/08/nyregion/new-york-today-teaching-teens-the-financial-rope

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Financial literacy is an essential life skill. Young people must navigate an unprecedently complex and competitive economy, yet only five states in the United States require financial literacy be taught in the public schools. New York and New Jersey are not among them. Evidence proves that financial literacy in the US is class- and race-based and that student debt is skyrocketing. Financial literacy is a key component of economic inequality.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We teach financial literacy by partnering with host sites where the vulnerable populations live. We go to them. We do not make them come to us. We go into every part of the community -- to housing projects, community centers, and schools (after hours and during the summer), NYC Department of Youth and Community Development centers, in virtually every neighborhood in the New York City metro area. Other programs have the students come to their facilities. Our programs are 100% free of charge and are taught hands-on, by carefully-trained professionals. Our workshops expose underserved kids to sophisticated economic concepts in an age-appropriate way. By the end of the Cents Ability course, these young people have a solid grounding in financial literacy and are thoroughly prepared to become changemakers in their families and communities. We completely shatter the myth that certain groups are not capable of becoming sound financial managers!

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

Below is a quote from Daniel Rosas, a senior at Dreamyard Prep School in the Bronx, who will be attending LaGuardia Community College next year and majoring in Accounting. This quote was supplied by Amanda Barbarello of Dreamyard: "I learned a lot during the financial literacy classes, but the part I enjoyed the most was learning about credit and credit cards. It was interesting to learn how even people who make millions of dollars can go into debt if they are not careful with their spending habits. When I get my first credit card I will be sure to not spend more than I can pay off at the end of the month so that I don't end up putting myself in a place where I am paying a lot of interest every month." We are currently working on creating a collection of personal essays from students detailing how their participation in our workshops has affected them.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

We focus on the economically underserved communities of the New York City metro area, which are overwhelmingly African-American, Hispanic, or of immigrant background. The challenge we face is: how can we reach MORE of these people? We need more staff, and we are working out a plan on how to "train the trainer" to be what is called in military terms, a force multiplier. One of these would be to run a series of "train the trainer" seminars.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • geography
  • immigration status
  • language
  • race/ethnicity
  • sexual orientation
  • gender
  • age - youth
  • socio-economic class
  • other (please specify on question 5a)

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

In the New York City metro area, there are several financial literacy non-profits but we are the only organization that goes into the community and reaches the young people who are excluded due to economic, racial and physical marginalization. We teach basic personal finance, no gimmicks. We don't teach students to be entrepreneurs or give them an imaginary $1 million stock portfolio or require that they come to an academy wearing a uniform. We give them knowledge - and knowledge is power.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

According to our records, Cents Ability has given 523 historical workshops with a total attendance of 11,910 students since 2004. The number of workshops has grown over the years, sometimes steadily, sometimes in spurts. Cents Ability hired a new Executive Director in mid-2017, Roy Paul, who has hired three staff members. This has put the organization on a different, more professional footing. We want to hire several new staff members in outreach and accounting in the coming year.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

The goal is to max out as much as possible in the New York City metro area, which is densely populated and large and has a huge reservoir of underserved youth who need our services. In order to do this we would have to add an outreach coordinator, which is currently beyond our capacity to pay for.

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Organizational Growth

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

In the last year, we have forged relationships with five NYC local banks under the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 (CRA) umbrella. The CRA is a United States federal law designed to encourage commercial banks and savings associations to help meet the needs of borrowers in all segments of their communities, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Volunteer-employees from these banks who teach our classes earn CRA credits. Cents Ability is a key component in making the CRA work.

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

Roy Paul, Executive Director. Roy has several years' experience in the political world and does a tremendous job of outreach, and situating Cents Ability in the local banking world's CRA efforts. Kim Lancial, Manager of Administration. Kim has over 20 years' experience in corporate HR. Alexa Moore, Founder, Board President. Alexa provides overall guidance and moral support. Diane Ezer, Development. Diane has a broad background in arts and humanitarian fund raising

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French)
  • Self-identify race, ethnicity, or origin

If you replied "Self-identify race, ethnicity, or origin" in the question above, please specify. (optional)

Roy Paul, the Executive Director of Cents Ability, identifies as African-American.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • No, I do not identify with an underrepresented community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • BNY Mellon page or contact

Evaluation results

2 evaluations so far

1. Overall, would you champion this entry as a excellent example to move forward to the next phase of the challenge and become a semifinalist?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 50%

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No - 0%

3. Is this entry IMPACTFUL on financial wellbeing?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 100%

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No - 0%

4. Is this entry SUSTAINABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

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No - 0%

5. What are some of the HIGHLIGHTS of strengths of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 100%

Clarity of Model - 100%

Clarity of Writing - 100%

Idea Originality - 0%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 100%

Impact measurement - 100%

Impact Potential - 100%

Financial Sustainability - 0%

Team - 100%

Partnerships - 100%

Potential to scale - 100%

6. What are some of the areas for IMPROVEMENT of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 0%

Clarity of Model - 0%

Clarity of Writing - 0%

Idea Originality - 100%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 0%

Impact measurement - 0%

Impact Potential - 0%

Financial Sustainability - 0%

Team - 0%

Partnerships - 0%

Potential to scale - 100%

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Brittany Corner

Great Idea! Financial Literacy needs to be taught as widely as possible