Dane County wage data from 2016 shows that Black women earn $15,000 less annually than white women, and $23,000 less than white men.

So the Progress Center for Black Women has launched a pilot initiative providing area Black families with tools to improve their financial health.

The Center’s Financial Health Academy, which the nonprofit announced April 20 in a news release, is a six-week challenge designed to help participants with making large purchases, paring down on credit card debt and starting the home ownership process. People can apply starting April 29, according to the release, and be awarded up to $1,000 for meeting a financial goal they set upon completing the challenge.

Center founder Sabrina Madison told the Star the Academy’s content is targeted toward people ages 13 to 21, and is curated based on what participants would like to learn about and is taught by Black financial experts. They can choose to learn virtually, or in the Center’s 5936 Seminole Centre Court space.

“We are also working to get partners who will provide families with dinners,” she said. “That way, the family doesn’t have to worry about cooking.”

Participants must reside in Dane County full-time, have at least one adult in the household that is employed full- or part-time and be able to commit four hours a week to interacting with challenge content, according to the release.

Madison said the idea for the initiative spans back to the fall of 2018, when conversations about serving younger audiences led to seeing a demand for financial learning programs that aren’t taught in school.

She herself recalled hearing “nothing but negative” things about credit cards when first looking for one, and added that going to the bank can be an intimidating experience for Black people overall.

Prospective participants, she soon discovered, wanted to learn about starting a business and other aspects of money management and garnering wealth.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Madison sought to expand the initiative to older generations as well. That way, participants of all ages could “build a network of support” with one another.

Now, the Financial Health Academy has become a reality through its partnerships and funding sources.

Partners include Dane County’s Financial Education Center as well as Dr. Algernon Felice, who is the director of Cultural Bridges Treatment and Consulting, LLC, based in the City of Madison.

And partially funding the Academy are UW-Health, UnityPoint Health-Meriter, United Way of Dane County and other businesses.

“One thing we did not want to do was create something faulting people for where they land on the financial spectrum,” Madison said.

To apply for the Academy challenge, visit centerforblackwomen.org/financial-health-academy.

Email Emilie Heidemann at emilie.heidemann@wcinet.com or follow her on Twitter at @HeidemannEmilie. 

Emilie Heidemann joined Unified Newspaper Group in 2018, where she serves as the community and business editor for four publications, as well as a quarterly magazine. Emilie covers the Village of Oregon and Fitchburg community beat.