Planting the Seeds for Financial Empowerment

Nitiya Walker ’14 of Seeds of Fortune

Growing up, Nitiya Walker ’14 was raised in Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant, two neighborhoods with large Black communities in Brooklyn, New York.

She relished the spirit of those neighborhoods, of how people tried to look after each other. The mantra, “lift as we climb, and leave no one behind,” described the responsibility that people felt toward one another, she says.

After graduating from Babson College, Walker returned to Brooklyn and today once again lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “It made sense to come back home,” she says, and she continues to carry that community spirit, of neighbors taking care of neighbors, forward with her.

Walker is the founder and executive director of Seeds of Fortune, a nonprofit that teaches young women of color financial literacy and helps them to apply for college scholarships. Over the last six-plus years, about 80 girls have graduated from the program, and they have accepted $8 million in scholarships and grants. Walker’s impressive work has led her to be one of several Babson alumni trailblazers named to the 10th annual Forbes 30 Under 30 list of young entrepreneurs in education.

With Seeds of Fortune, Walker strives to empower others through financial knowledge. That knowledge, she believes, can have a wide-ranging impact. “For minority families, financial education is essential for their financial security,” she says. “It is something that empowers you and equips you to make better financial decisions. Once you are economically empowered, it can have an effect on future generations.”

To Level the Playing Field

At Babson, Walker saw how financial knowledge was commonplace among her classmates. Students are living and breathing business in their courses, of course, but many also are growing up in families who are financially astute. They know about investing, building credit, buying homes, and paying for college. “At Babson, being around business majors, I saw how information was passed from one generation to another generation,” she says.

For people of color, however, Walker has seen how this knowledge is not always widely known. They may want to build better credit or buy a home, she says, but they may not understand how to get there. That lack of knowledge can hamper their future opportunities, especially considering the systemic racism they already face. “How can we have an equitable future when there is such a gap in financial knowledge?” Walker says. “It can help level the playing field to know how to manage your money.”

Having gone to Babson and learned these essential skills, Walker felt a tremendous responsibility. That’s what led her to start Seeds of Fortune. “Once you obtain this knowledge,” she says, “you have to pass it to others.”

Paying for College

When Walker launched Seeds of Fortune her senior year at Babson, she focused on young women of color who were about to enter college and who would have a hard time paying for it. “By the time they get to decision day, many of the colleges they apply to they can’t attend because they can’t afford to go there,” she says.

That’s a situation Walker knows all too well. When she was in high school, she was unsure if she could afford to attend Babson, so she enlisted the help of a neighborhood mom who had obtained much-needed scholarships for her daughter. Her advice helped Walker become a Posse Scholar at Babson.

“How can we have an equitable future when there is such a gap in financial knowledge? It can help level the playing field to know how to manage your money.”

Nitiya Walker ’14, the founder and executive director of Seeds of Fortune

Just as that neighborhood mom helped Walker, Seeds of Fortune is doing the same for others. Girls apply to enter the 10-month program, which takes Seed Scholars through the college application process, including applying for financial aid. Thanks to a new partnership with Yale Women in Economics, Seeds Scholars also receive mentorship from Yale undergraduates while completing summer projects focused on economics. Once the pandemic wanes, Seed Schools will have an overnight at Yale, where they will present their projects.

Walker hopes the girls in the program not only learn about college financial aid but also gain a greater understanding of how economics affects the world around them. The pandemic, for instance, has adversely affected communities of color disproportionately, and girls may have watched businesses close and people they know lose jobs. “There are a lot of factors happening to them, and they may not understand,” Walker says.

Taking Ownership

Seeds of Fortune also provides online resources about college affordability, as well as a program focusing on the professional and financial development of college students. Making sure all these efforts run smoothly makes for a busy life for Walker, who works a full-time job as a corporate account manager at Insider Intelligence, a digital and financial research firm. Additionally, she provides personal financial coaching to millennial minorities through her firm, Walker Finance.

Her work with Seeds of Fortune, however, is worth it, she says. By helping to financially empower young people, she has a front-row seat as they grow and find their way, guiding them as they enter college, find jobs, and start out on their lives. “It’s pretty gratifying,” Walker says. “The girls are taking ownership of their own future.”

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