HAMPTON, Va. — Hampton University’s freshman class is beginning their collegiate experience, a little differently than most— it’s starting with the stock market.
“I love the beauty of the stock market and just making money,” said student Joshua Hoover.
Other students aren’t quite sharing that sentiment, yet.
“I'm going to be so honest; I don't know much about stocks,” said Cydney Wynn, a freshman at the university.
Fellow freshman Genesis Martinez agreed.
“As a person who doesn't come from a financial literate family, I don't know a lot about stocks,” Martinez said.
That’s about to change, however, because Hampton University is investing in them, giving each of the nearly 900 members of the freshman class at this HBCU, $25 in an investment account at Stackwell Capital.
“We need to increase representation in the space to make people feel more comfortable and confident with the investment process,” said Stackwell Capital CEO Trevor Rozier-Byrd.
Rozier-Byrd said he has seen first-hand that African Americans lag behind their white counterparts when it comes to investing in stocks.
“The fact of the matter is that only about a third of Black Americans are invested in the stock market, as compared to almost two-thirds of white Americans,” he said. “The lost opportunity about not participating in the financial markets is significant.”
Hampton University President Darrell Williams said the investment requires an effort from students.
“We pride ourselves at Hampton on what we call an education for life,” Williams said, adding that the program also requires students to take online financial literacy classes. “We think the combination of those two things will really begin to help our students close the wealth gap. We realize that this program is not going to solve world hunger. We do believe that this is a critical component, where it doesn't take large amounts of money, in order to gain an education and to begin to build your wealth.”
That is something students said they’re ready to learn to do.
“My vision is honestly just developing that experience, that knowledge, so that I could pass it on to others like my children when I do have some of my own,” Joshua Hoover said.
For Cydney Wynn, the program goes beyond a college degree.
“Everyone goes to school and we do homework; we take our tests,” Wynn said. “But not everyone knows how financial literacy works, and I think it's so important that everyone learns it.”
The investment is one that Genesis Martinez said will take her, and many of her classmates, down a new path in their financial futures.
“I think it's important to acknowledge the fact that Black and Brown students, or Black and Brown people, don't have that advantage or have that experience in financial literacy,” Martinez said. “They're setting us up for life in the best way.”