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New financial literacy program is part of a larger effort to help young people of color find success

Oregon's income inequality may be growing and its racial wealth gaps widening, but one organization aims to change that.

The Contingent, a Portland-based venture nonprofit preparing people of color to thrive in society, is celebrating the second year of a financial literacy initiative.

Survival Is Not Enough was launched in March 2021 as a multi-year program intending to close the growing racial wealth gap. Aimed at recent college grads of color, the SINE program is free, pairing members with BIPOC professionals who guide them on financial education and professional growth.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Sabrina Cerquera gives remarks during a panel discussion at a SINE event in July. SINE is a financial literacy and wealth building program geared toward college graduates of color.Members are guided through four areas of focus: financial education, such as budgeting, paying off debt, and effective use of credit cards; wealth building by investing savings and protecting assets; leadership development, including setting and advancing career goals; and civic engagement to become community leaders.

"We are asked provoking accountability questions about our career and what we want to be," Sasheen Turner, a SINE member, said.

Previously called the Portland Leadership Foundation, the organization has rebranded itself as The Contingent, but is still focused on developing young people of color into future leaders, while also fixing gaps in state programs like the foster care system.

Recent college graduates of color who've completed a two- or four-year degree program within the past five years are encouraged to get involved with the next round of SINE. The program is geared toward people age 18 to 35. Applications are due Aug. 15.

The SINE program already has proven successful after a year. More than 80% of members in the first pilot cohort now have an emergency fund that could last three months. Comparatively, the national average of Americans having three months of savings is just under 51%.

"The objective is to close the wealth gap in tangible and measurable ways," said Nick Poindexter, director of mentoring, partnerships and recruitment at The Contingent. "The benefit of this program is it's not just focused on getting a job. It's helping you advance your career, building financial wealth, and also learning leadership skills. I think what the SINE program does is holistically look at how do we develop college graduates of color."

J.T. Hutchinson, PNC Bank regional president and head of corporate banking for Portland, praised the program. "PNC has an established track record of supporting programs that empower historically marginalized communities, and SINE is doing just that," he said in a press release.

Part of the program's success was aided by an assessment tool the organization created, called a social mobility scorecard. The scorecard is a yearly assessment in the four focus areas for each SINE member and each cohort over a span of up to 10 years.

The scorecard was created with the help of Microsoft and later led The Contingent to win an award for the most innovative use of Microsoft technologies in 2021. Microsoft provided a grant, including finances and scoping assistance, to launch the social mobility scorecard.

Aside from the collaboration with Microsoft, SINE is supported by businesses including Advantis, Tillamook, Dutch Bros, PNC Bank and Thesis Agency.

The Contingent tackles some of society's biggest problems using a grassroots approach. SINE is their newest program, but they have launched several successful initiatives to improve racial and economic equity in Oregon.

Emerging Leaders, the state's largest internship program, aims to improve racial and cultural diversity at the leadership level in companies.

When the organization saw gaps in Oregon's foster care system, it created Every Child as a foster family support system, in partnership with Oregon's Department of Human Services. The goal is to provide love, care, and support for vulnerable children and families in Oregon. The nonprofit also offers scholarship and mentorship programs.PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Sasheen Turner gives remarks during a panel discussion at a banquet held by nonprofit group The Contingent at Portland State University in July. Turner took part in a SINE program offered through The Contingent.

The Contingent leaders said SINE was created as a way to keep supporting students from the Emerging Leaders program, after college.

Turner, 28, was a member of Emerging Leaders and felt like she needed support afterward, so she joined SINE. The financial literacy program was only available to previous Emerging Leaders.

"It felt like a continuation of support," Turner said. "It made me feel really secure."

Turner, who graduated from Portland State University's School of Business, was provided with sources and networks as a SINE member.

Turner got a job as an account executive after college and was able to upgrade her apartment. She also works on the side as a contemporary abstract artist with an online platform. As a SINE member, Turner learned how to budget money with having a business and a salary role. She was encouraged to hire an accountant to do her taxes for the first time by her mentors.

Mentors say the latest program is an example of The Contingent's commitment to tackling systemic issues and removing barriers.

"The SINE story is one of collective empowerment and is a platform to lift leaders and prepare them for the challenges of building a career without sacrificing culture and identity," Casey Pearlman, a SINE participant who works at the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Economic Development Corporation, stated in a press release. "It's a story that tears down the artificial barriers that lock away potential by facing them and bravely asking the big questions."

Interested in taking part?

BIPOC residents or Oregon and Southwest Washington who've graduated college in the past five years are encouraged to get involved. SINE also is looking for mentors with at least two years of professional work experience. To learn more, visit: Survival Is Not Enough

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