As a kid growing up in the South Bronx, Jaleni Thompson (BSBA ‘08) was fortunate to have a no-nonsense mom and a few key mentors to keep him from losing his way.
Now a successful Associate Analyst at Moody’s, the Tepper School alum is giving back by inspiring today’s youth through an organization he co-founded called D.R.E.A.M.
Developing Responsible Economically Advanced Model Citizens (D.R.E.A.M.) is a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching financial literacy to high school youth. Based in New York City, Thompson is co-founder and chief strategy officer.
“We founded the program in 2009, started a pilot program in 2010 and now we have partnered with ING-Direct to take in our first full cohort of students,” Thompson said.
This academic year, D.R.E.A.M. is offering 10 Saturday sessions of its three-year ‘Invest in Success’ financial literacy program, based out of ING-Direct Café in midtown Manhattan.
“We supplement this with a mandate for all of our students to open savings accounts, inviting industry professionals in as guest speakers, as well as offering a mentorship and community service component that amount to a unique, well-rounded experience,” Thompson said.
Why financial literacy?
“Student loans exceeded credit card debt for the first time as of 2010. This notably underscores the importance of education and the need for money management skills ahead of college,” he explained.
Referring to himself as a “risky bet that CMU believed in taking a chance on,” Thompson graduated from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University in 2008.
As an associate analyst at Moody’s Investors Service, he assesses the financial and credit wherewithal of hospitals across the nation.
“CMU is and will always be one of the most profoundly challenging, humbling and rewarding experiences in my life,” he said.
“It’s a place where I was introduced to an entirely different level of grind, not to mention countless windows of opportunity, key resources like CMARC, and friendships-turned-extended-family that would help guide me and continue to help me today.”
Thompson believes he can have the greatest impact on today’s youth by providing them with hope by sharing his story.
“I mean, you take it day by day, person by person. You give them the hope and the skills they need early so they can go on to navigate life successfully,” he said.
“That energy, that spirit, can multiply. They can look at me and envision themselves doing similar things – implementing needed, positive change in their communities.”
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