CHICAGO – Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Children First Fund (CFF), CPS’ Foundation, today announced a new partnership between Lee Elementary and Cabrera Capital Markets to strengthen the financial literacy and planning skills of Lee students and their families. CPS CEO Pedro Martinez joined Illinois State Treasurer Michael W. Frerichs and Cabrera Capital Markets Founder and CEO – and CPS alumnus – Martin Cabrera, Jr. and the firm’s president, and fellow CPS alumnus, Robert Aguilar, to observe a classroom budgeting lesson for Lee Elementary sixth graders as they celebrated the collaborative effort.
“Partnerships like this provide our students with extraordinary access to tools and resources that will help them build a bright future for themselves, their families, and their communities,” said CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. “Building a strong foundation in financial literacy during elementary school will set up Lee students for post-secondary success and a more financially secure future.”
Beginning with a three-year commitment, this partnership will support educational programming for students and families, a full-time community engagement and financial education coordinator at Lee Elementary, and provide supplementary funding for Lee students’ 529 college savings accounts. Consistent with CPS goals for embedding financial education and embedding financial literacy at earlier grade levels across the District, programming will include education about investing, saving, and building wealth through exposure to investment opportunities. Starting with the school’s current population of nearly 700 students, the partnership makes available incentives of $100 in initial funding for students who create qualifying 529 college savings accounts. In addition, the partnership will allocate funds to create brokerage accounts for each grade level at Lee Elementary, starting with an investment of $20,000 per grade. Classes at Lee will then invest these funds, gaining real world investment experience. A share of the gains accrued in these accounts will get distributed to students’ individual 529 accounts upon graduation from eighth grade, while the original investment principle will be reinvested by subsequent classes at Lee. The new staff position (currently held by an alumna of Lee Elementary) and the 529 savings incentives are unique to this partnership between Cabrera and Lee.
Martin Cabrera Jr., graduate of Bogan High School on Chicago’s southwest side, credits an economics class during his senior year of high school – in particular, the teacher’s use of the Stock Market Game – for sparking his interest in finance and the stock market. Joined at today’s event by Cabrera Capital Markets President Robert Aguilar (also a CPS alumnus, of Lane Tech College Prep High School), Mr. Cabrera hopes this partnership will provide current students with skills they need to develop their talents, lead satisfying lives, and build generational wealth.
“A class I took at a CPS school sparked my lifelong interest in the financial industry,” said Cabrera, Jr. “We are honored to be in a position to give back to Chicago students. This partnership provides creative and engaging opportunities for students to learn about the power of investing and to build the confidence to become lifelong investors.”
The partnership seeks to increase not only financial literacy – and thus college-readiness – but also college attendance. In collaboration with the Office of the Illinois State Treasurer, the partnership hopes that funding incentives for individual student 529 accounts will increase participation from Lee Elementary’s families in Illinois’ 529 college savings plan, encourage student and family attendance at financial education meetings, and raise awareness about resources available to support students’ postsecondary education.
“We applaud families for taking the responsible step of saving for their child’s future, and partnerships like this make it easier for parents to understand how to invest in Bright Start,” Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs said. “This initiative also will educate our children about the impact that savings and investing can have on their financial future.”
Just over half – 52 percent – of all U.S. households have a savings account, with the typical account holding about $5,000, according to a 2021 report from the Consumer Federation of America. According to the 2022 State of Hispanic Wealth Report, Latino households (97% of Lee Elementary’s student population identifies as Latino) in the United States have the lowest retirement account investment rate of any demographic and the number of Latinos who report participating in mutual funds is too low to report and so students may not be learning about saving and investing from their parents. Children with college savings plans have higher college-going rates and are more likely to graduate from college than those with no savings. Even with savings of less than $500, a child is more likely to enroll in college and graduate than a child with no savings, according to a study from the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis.
The financial education (FinEd) enrichment and engagement in this partnership are consistent with the District’s vision for financial literacy. CPS provides financial literacy education in kindergarten through high school that align to Illinois State Standards for Economics and Financial Literacy, including a nine-week consumer education/financial education graduation requirement for high school students. District schools partner with more than 20 financial organizations that support classroom lessons and experiences, and sponsor after-school investment clubs in both middle and high school.
Learn more about the partnership between Lee and Cabrera Capital on the Lee Elementary School’s website, and find more information about other School Partnership Program opportunities facilitated by the Children First Fund at childrenfirstfund.org/school-partnership-program/.
About Chicago Public Schools
Chicago Public Schools serves more than 322,000 students in 635 schools. It is the nation’s fourth-largest school district.
About Children First Fund: The Chicago Public Schools Foundation
The Children First Fund is the philanthropic and partnership arm of Chicago Public School (CPS). It serves as a knowledge hub and liaison between CPS and its community of partners, securing and organizing resources that advance CPS’ mission to provide a high-quality public education that prepares every child in every neighborhood for success in college, career, and civic life. For more information, please visit https://www.childrenfirstfund.org or find us on social @ChiFirstFund.