YouthCare is collaborating with Junior Achievement to develop financial literacy and job readiness curriculum geared toward homeless youth—and Becca LaNasa is leading the way!  

In early 2020, YouthCare and Junior Achievement of Washington were brought together by funding partner, Symetra, with the aim of providing a financial literacy curriculum to the young people at YouthCare. The partnership was featured here in July 2021. 

Junior Achievement (JA) is a non-profit organization that brings financial literacy, job readiness, and entrepreneurship education into classrooms and communities across the nation. Alongside their mission, “to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy,” Junior Achievement of Washington’s Social Justice Commitment reads:  

We are committed to educating in a way that dismantles inequality, racism, and oppression and sparking honest conversations in our communities.  

Since the beginning of the partnership, JA has proven to stand by their mission and social justice commitment. Randi Eseltine, YouthCare’s Director of Community Engagement, recalls, “We had an exploration meeting with Junior Achievement because they are not typically working with our specific population. We wanted to explore: Is this feasible? How flexible are you on your curriculum? They were all ears, saying, ‘Yes, let’s work on this together and figure out how to make this work for the youth that you serve.’”   

“Let’s work on this together and figure out how to make this work for the youth that you serve.”   

Rebecca Lanasa portrait
Becca LaNasa, Director of Orion Center

For the past two years, Becca LaNasa, Director of YouthCare’s Orion Center, has partnered with JA to tailor their curriculum to our clients’ needs. The process includes reviewing existing JA materials, recommending edits, piloting revised curriculum, collecting youth and staff feedback, and implementing the finalized curriculum. “We are a little more than halfway through the content that they are going to be developing for us. So, we already have a lot of that in the pilot phase and implementation phase across the agency, with more to come in the year ahead,” Becca states. 

Combining the unique expertise of both YouthCare and Junior Achievement works to benefit both organizations and the youth they serve. While YouthCare is able to offer a robust, contextualized financial education to youth, Junior Achievement is increasing the accessibility of their national curriculum based on the feedback they have received. For example, there was a lesson featuring a vignette where a youth had the financial goal to purchase prom tickets. While this example may be a common experience for many teens, “it’s just not something that is consistently relevant to the young people we serve,’ says Randi. Incorporating YouthCare’s specialized feedback allows JA to broaden their curriculum to reflect the diverse experiences and needs of youth in complex situations.

illustration of open book with floating subjects

JA is also shifting to feature more diverse business professionals in the curriculum. When reviewing curriculum, Becca asks, “Are there people we can highlight in these materials that are more representative of the folks that we are serving and not continuing to entrench a white narrative of what success looks like?” Both Becca and Randi express how receptive JA has been to YouthCare’s feedback and recommendations. And, JA went above and beyond their contractual agreement to train the YouthCare staff implementing the curriculum, many of whom do not have the classroom management skills that JA school-based facilitators do.  

Over 60 youth in YouthCare’s YouthGrow and Tile programs have been through the curriculum, which has proven to be adaptable to various settings and youth. One YouthCare staff member successfully used the curriculum one-on-one with a neurodivergent youth, ensuring this youth had access to the full spectrum of job readiness training. 

We are working with a partner agency that has a good starting place and a shared goal of helping reach young people with financial literacy materials.

Becca LaNasa

This project illustrates the power of partnership in non-profit work. Becca says,  

“A lot of times in non-profit work we feel that we have to build things from the ground up or build the tools we need because they do not already exist. Which is true. Financial literacy education and curriculum for young people experiencing homelessness do not exist in the way that we want for use at YouthCare. And, instead of us sitting down to a blank piece of paper and developing that content, we are working with a partner agency that has a good starting place and a shared goal of helping reach young people with financial literacy materials. Through that collaboration, the materials we are coming out with are much stronger than what we would have been able to create on our own.” 

Becca, along with YouthCare PQI Manger, Bella Bowman, will share the successes of this dynamic partnership at the Runaway and Homeless Youth National Grantee Training this month. Her talk “Building Youth-Centered Approaches to Economic Stability” will focus on partnership. “Social services agencies across the nation should be looking through the lens of community partnership around this work…Think about other partners in your community, banks, schools, career counselors, folks that might already have a starting place, and step into partnership alongside them to serve your demographic.” Together, we are better.

If you’d like to attend the event, taking place virtually on November 15 – 17, registration is free and can be found at this link.