New financial literacy program aims to help Alaska youth succeed

John Hope Bryant speaks with high schoolers at Bartlett in Anchorage. (Hillman/KSKA)
John Hope Bryant speaks with high schoolers at Bartlett in Anchorage. (Hillman/KSKA)
A new project launched in Anchorage this week aimed at building strong communities through financial literacy. But as Operation Hope founder John Hope Bryant told Bartlett High School students, to build a strong community you must first improve yourself.

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John Hope Bryant has an impressive resume — he’s started multiple international businesses, advised three presidents, has billions in investments, and all with only a high school education. He’s not shy about sharing his rags-to-riches story. He was homeless at 18 and now has multiple limitless credit cards. How did he get there? He says through entrepreneurship and believing that he could do it.

“Poverty has nothing to do with money. Half of all poverty is low self-esteem and lack of confidence in yourself. Then the second part of poverty is crappy role models and a crappy environment.”

Bryant says his non-profit Operation HOPE plans to partner with 200 organizations like banks, schools, and community centers around Alaska. Together they will offer space for one-on-one counseling and teach about things like credit scores, entrepreneurship, and trusting that you can succeed. The project is funded through financial institutions, foundations and some government money.

“Those are offices that provide economic uplift and empowerment,” Bryant said in reference to the 200 locations that will house the programs. He says the programs create jobs, which stabilizes communities then creates taxes which create more public resources which helps community. “Which is individuals helping community.”

When speaking to an auditorium filled with students at Bartlett High School in Anchorage, Bryant focused on giving individuals hope that they can succeed and saving yourself before you can save others.

Junior Anton Green says his take-home message was “when people are coming at you with negative stuff, just ignore them. Because that’s a big thing in my life where it’s a repetitive thing where there’s always something happening. So what I got out of it is if you’re trying to reach a goal, and they’re getting in your way, ignore them.”

Bryant’s personal story drove home the point that she could succeed, said senior Sarah Deng.

“He didn’t have to go to Harvard or like Yale or a big school and he’s so successful and like determined. He’s like a symbol of endurance and working hard.”

Operation HOPE has offices in the US, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco. They promote Global Dignity Day, which focuses on financial dignity and was recognized yesterday in Anchorage through a mayoral proclamation.

Anne Hillman is the healthy communities editor at Alaska Public Media and a host of Hometown, Alaska. Reach her at Read more about Anne here.

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