Operation HOPE was honored to be selected to manage the new Kids Bank Account Program for the City of Atlanta, through Atlanta Public Schools, working in close collaboration with Dr. Lisa Herring, Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools.

The program, led into existing by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, will continue for years to come. Well beyond the period funded by the City.

It only made sense to me that Operation HOPE, the largest financial literacy and financial inclusion organization for the underserved in the nation, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, would put a marker down and commit to lead this critical work in our home city — the moral capitol of America, and the home of civil rights. Now, silver rights too.

This is personal to me. I am in many ways, the young man standing in the middle of the lead photograph in this piece. He reminds me of the 9 year old me, who got his first financial literacy course through a Home Economic class, which doesn’t exist for the most part anymore in public schools.

It was Compton, California, and the banker standing in front of me, made no sense to me, whatsoever. But, when he told me how money really worked, and that he was ‘a banker, who financed entrepreneurs,’ I was hooked. All in on my future. I am a successful entrepreneur to this day, largely because of that early investment from my mother, my school and this volunteer banker, when I was 9. I started my first bank account, and I opened my very first business. But I got lucky. I was the exception in my community, not the rule.

But hopefully, this young man and his entire generation, will have many more viable options presented to him than I had when I was his age — largely because of this new program.

Recently, Operation HOPE was appointed as the guardian of a new program, initially funded by the City of Atlanta, that was designed to provide Kids Bank Accounts.

Awarded $2 million from the City, in a unanimous vote of support from the Atlanta City Council (a special thank you, to each of the City Council Members, also), Operation HOPE was charged to create and manage Kids Accounts for all low income children entering Kindergarten, in and through Atlanta Public Schools.

The award from the City allows Operation HOPE to open $50 bank accounts for every participating low income young person in Kindergarten, but HOPE plans to go further. Our own commitment will last longer than the City has funded — a full decade, through 2030, as part of our overall 3rd Reconstruction work.

Working with our banking and other private sector and foundation partners, we also plan to raise funds to match the City’s $50 per bank account funding, adding an additional investment option. We will also teach financial literacy and business and entrepreneurship skills in APS, and will work to expand the program to include all kindergarten kids, and additional grades within the APS system.

This work is personal to me. And it’s part of a larger tapestry designed to help upgrade the software of humanity, from the inside out. It is also social justice, through an economic lens. This is the next phase of community development, from the bottom up.

We get this right, and we will, and within our lifetime Atlanta will experience a renaissance of new homeownerships, small business owners, entrepreneurs, tax payers, voters and citizens — all leaned in on Atlanta’s continued, sustainable growth.

All coming, from these kindergartners and young students, who we are investing in — now. Let’s go.

John Hope Bryant, founder, Operation HOPE

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