Parental Engagement for Financial Literacy

To ensure low-income families have resources and understanding to achieve higher education goals as a pathway to economic independence

Photo of Ivy Nagahiro
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  • 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?

Massachusetts: Boston (02118, 02119) | Chelsea (02150) | Revere (02151) | Lynn (01901-01905) | Salem (01970) | Haverhill ( 01832 )| Lowell (01854) | Worcester (01604) | Springfield (01105) | Pittsfield (01201)

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.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)


  • $1m - $5m

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.

Two experiences shaped our founder, Bob Hildreth's vision in creating Inversant: 1st, during an ICE raid in New Bedford MA, Bob set a challenge for the 361 families of the arrested immigrants: save half for the bond, and he would pay for the other half. Second, Bob offered to match $2,000, if families of La Vida Scholars in Lynn could save $2,000 during high school. Again, impressed to see that 100% of families met his challenge. The ability of low-income families to meet financial incentives urged Bob to explore better involving low-income, immigrant families into the equation of college planning. This advocacy philanthropy has focused attention on education reform in the US with particular consideration of under-served communities.

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

Parents are often left out of the equation when in comes to college for low-income, immigrant families. 72% of all jobs in MA will require college education or training beyond high school. Students are at high risk for dropping out, especially when they fail to consider college a realistic prospect for their future. We believe that education is attainable to all regardless of income, and family engagement is crucial to educational achievements.

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

Our approach of college access is to work directly with parents, encouraging enrollment for low-income families to save and pursue college as an avenue for economic independence. We help families with: filling out FAFSA forms, standardized tests, differentiating between loans and scholarships and navigating the complicated college application process. This financial literacy and cultural competency empower families, especially low-income and immigrant families, to invest and succeed in higher education. Additionally, we help families open college savings account and will match their savings (up to $1,000) towards college or career training costs. Our results provide evidence in how increasing parent's engagement in the education process will improve student's achievements. A study of Inversant’s program in Chelsea, conducted by Bridget Long, Dean of Education at Harvard University, found a strong link between the Inversant program enrollment and high academic performance: Inversant encourages familial behavior to prepare for college, encourages savings and family's financial literary, increases expectations for education and for students, better grades and attendance.

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

Josefa knows what it means to work hard to provide to her children and having an education will allow her two sons Luis and Ismael to have a better quality of life, give back to their family, and be active members in their communities. She joined Inversant in 2015 as her two boys began their high school careers. "I hope that everything I am learning from Inversant- all of the information and the savings will be for good use to my kids. As a single mother, I have a lot to deal with and sometimes you lose focus of certain things to take care of other things. I hope to continue learning and saving so my kids can attend the best colleges possible. Inversant educates me so that I can go and educate them." She attends the monthly workshops and saves regularly for both Luis and Ismael. She shares that her favorite workshop has been learning about different kinds of loans and options available

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 start by helping families open a Children’s Savings Account (CSA) which positively impact children’s and families’ mindset towards education. Research shows that families with CSAs are more likely to see college as a goal, and low-income children with $500 or less in a college dedicated savings account, are 3 times more likely at attend and 4 times more likely to graduate. Our workshops focus on financial literacy and money management and we provide incentives to match families' savings.

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

  • geography
  • immigration status
  • work status
  • language
  • race/ethnicity
  • socio-economic class

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

We are one of the few college access programs that work directly with parents to compel their children towards higher education. Our efforts focus on the aspirations of parents as the key in propelling their student towards education success by harnessing ambitions and goals every parent has for their children and providing low income, mostly immigrant families, with the understanding and the tools they need. We help families save and pay for college, provide knowledge, resources, and connections to foster a common dialogue for parents with their children around the subject of education.

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

There are now over 588 Inversant students who have gone on to college, representing 94% of our high school graduates. As of Fall 2017, 88% of Inversant alumni are enrolled in college after one year. This is much higher than the national average of 68.7% ( and even higher than the one-year persistence rate of Boston Public Schools (BPS) of 66% which is more representative of the population we serve ( While the two-year persistence rate for BPS is 49.9%, 85% of Inversant's alumni are enrolled after their second year. In addition, 74% of Inversant's alumni have graduated from a 4-year program in 4 years. This is again much higher than Massachusetts' 4-year graduation rate of 40.2% ( and also much higher than the 6-year graduation rate at the national level, which is 59% (

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

We are a partnership driven model, working with school districts and local businesses to ensure that funding and infrastructure are in place to support families and support our strategy. Because of our proven success with regards to our student's college data, the Massachusetts State Treasurer's Office asked us to provide the curriculum for parental engagement in 5 gateway cities for eventual statewide CSAs. Also, the City of Boston asked to partner with us for similar reasons. Inversant will be the only program that has city and state-wide parental engagement curriculum for college savings

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

  • Organizational Growth
  • Large Scale Partnerships
  • Organizing Conferences
  • Trainings, Consultation

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

We work with local business partners to fund the match. Our data shows that 72% of our graduates return to their hometown to live or work thus perpetuating the local economy. Businesses see this as an opportunity to support their consumers and potential work-force. Inversant also recently had an endowed gift which will ensure sustainability and our fundraising continues to grow as we reach additional communities, helping us with operating costs. We continue to see out diverse funding sources.

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?

We have an active Board of Directors and Advisers, representing leaders in education, government, and businesses. Our program staff consists of experienced teachers who facilitate parental workshops and we also engage local guidance counselor's office for recruiting and enrolling families, promoting a positive interaction with families vs. the often suspension/detention conversation. Our staff is multi-lingual, addressing the needs of our community and fluent in Spanish, Vietnamese, and Chinese.

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

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani)

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

  • Communities of color
  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • BNY Mellon page or contact
  • Ashoka page or contact

Program Design Clarity

a) We hold monthly meetings with families designed around financial literacy and encouraging savings b) Cities of Chelsea, Lynn, Salem, Revere, Boston, Lowell, Haverhill, Worcester, Springfield, and Pittsfield c) Monthly meetings d) 2 hours per meeting, per site, where we provide opportunities for families to build community and share thoughts and ideas and to learn from each other e) Our talented, multi-lingual facilitators deliver our curriculum and we work with banking partners for detailed financial literacy expertise

Approach to financial wellbeing: does your project focus on creating financial wellbeing through innovating on any of the following?

  • education / literacy
  • saving
  • other

If you marked "Other" in the question above, please specify:

We use incentives as a method of promoting a habit of savings. We also tie financial literacy to a concrete goal of saving for college.

Innovation type: Please select which of the following types of innovation best characterize your work

  • Process innovation (execution of a new or considerably improved production or delivery method)
  • Institutional innovation (Creation or changes in organizational structures, the setting up of new types of financial intermediaries, or to changes in the legal and supervisory framework)

Partnerships in detail: tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.

We work with local credit unions which offers no fee, flexible accounts (custodial accounts are available for undocumented students) community-centric banking solutions that understand the needs of the population we serve (cash deposits, familiar bilingual staff) We partner with school districts as a parental engagement program and service We partner with the state to test our model for potential scalability for eventual universal Children's Savings Accounts.

If you won the Unlocking ₵hange Challenge, how would you invest the prize money of $50,000?

An ability to scale and work with more partners that need parental engagement as a key in getting youths of the community to see college as an attainable goal. Study shows that with $500 or LESS in savings for college, students are 3 x more likely to attend and 4 x more likely to graduate.

Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions has the project received?

City of Lynn- Literacy Leadership Excellence Award College Keys Innovation Award Cummings Foundation- Sustaining Grant Award Boston Celtics- Heros Among Us Award Massachusetts State Treasurer- Vision to Empower Massachusetts Families

Evaluation results

5 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! - 40%

Yes/maybe - 60%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 20%

Yes/maybe - 20%

Maybe - 40%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 20%

3. Is this entry IMPACTFUL on financial wellbeing?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry SUSTAINABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 20%

Yes/maybe - 60%

Maybe - 20%

Maybe/no - 0%

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 - 40%

Idea Originality - 40%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 80%

Impact measurement - 60%

Impact Potential - 60%

Financial Sustainability - 20%

Team - 0%

Partnerships - 60%

Potential to scale - 20%

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

Connection to underserved community - 0%

Clarity of Model - 0%

Clarity of Writing - 100%

Idea Originality - 100%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 0%

Impact measurement - 0%

Impact Potential - 0%

Financial Sustainability - 100%

Team - 0%

Partnerships - 100%

Potential to scale - 100%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kristina Lersbuasin

Innovative idea and your results are impressive!

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