The MetLife Foundation Is Laser Focused on Financial Empowerment, Including of Youth

Last year, MetLife Foundation revised its grantmaking strategy to focus exclusively on financial inclusion and pledged $200 million over five years "to help low-income individuals and families get access to safe and affordable financial products and services."

That effort is global in scope, and so it makes sense that the foundation is a strong supporter of Junior Achievement, which also operates globally and is also keenly interested in financially empowering people, specifically young people. 

With support from MetLife Foundation, Junior Achievement is getting a boost for 12 of its programs that help "enable youth to own their economic future." Eight JA programs will receive $25,000 each from the foundation, and four will receive $10,000.

Metlife Foundation has been supporting JA since 2000. Over the past 14 years, they have awarded 83 Entrepreneurial Awards and 13 Sewing Seeds of Entrepreneurship awards. JA programs in 18 different countries have benefited from these awards.

Another youth organization that MetLife is supporting in a significant way is the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

Don't feel bad if you don't know much, or anything, about Junior Achievement, since it doesn't attract the heat of some newer NGOs. Actually, though, JA is one of the world's largest nonprofits dedicated to addressing fundamental social and economic challenges of young people.  

How does it do this? The idea is to provide real-world experiences by sending kids into different job settings and seeing firsthand what the work is like. As well, JA promotes financial literacy, giving kids, as one testimonial puts it, "a sense of what adults go through with budget issues.” In 123 countries around the world, JA seeks to provide "cutting edge" and "experiential" education for youth. It estimates its volunteer base at 400,000 people and its reach to youth at 10 million.

Is this stuff effective? Junior Achievement says yes, and provides data on its website that shows how children are impacted by participating in its programs. 

What kinds of projects do JA kids get involved in? The U.S. programs funded this year ranged from podcasts to video productions to day-long field trips to specific work sites. In Western Massachusetts, one of the "Sowing the Seeds" grants is for a switcharoo day where college students go to kindergarten through 5th grade classes to learn about young educational environments. This provides college students with the opportunity to see what education careers look like firsthand, and 5th graders the chance to feel out college for the first time.

Junior Achievement has been around since 1919 when Horace A. Moses, president of Strathmore Paper Company, launched the first JA Company Program, allowing young people to experience the entire life cycle of the company's product, from market research to viable product, including marketing and selling, offering stockholder dividends, and devising a plan for sustainable business.

In the 1950s JA really took off, growing enrollment to 66,000 students in 139 cities nationwide. JA started forming worldwide partnerships in 1975 with Mexico Impulsa, and adding South Africa in 1979. Today JA has 30 programs worldwide.