Nitiya Walker Interview
Scholarships are an educational tool, but it is really about financial empowerment. It is so important to be able to understand finances; college is the first financial decision you will make as a young adult ...
Nitiya Walker, Founder of Seeds of Fortune
How did you get started in this space?
It started when I was undergrad and it was because when I was in high school somebody taught me how to get scholarships. I went through many experiences throughout my time in undergrad, including a CSR (corporate social responsibility) abroad experience. It clicked to me that I had something from my own experience that I could use to give back to people in my own community. Someone taught me how to get scholarships, so I thought why not go back and see if I could teach girls in my community what that person taught me. We did our pilot program going into my senior year of college with three girls. Two of the girls ended up getting scholarships and one was admitted into the college of her choice.
That is awesome. Can you talk more about the different programs and initiatives Seeds of Fortune has in place?
We have three programs:
Our first program is our High School Scholars program. Girls from all over the five boroughs competitively apply for 20 seats in our scholars program. They go through a yearlong process, which is kicked off by our summer boot camp to get them ready for their college and scholarship applications. They also learn leadership development skills and have an annual business plan competition. From there we wanted to scale out, so we started a clubs organization, where schools can sign up to have Seeds of Fortune clubs in their schools. The girls compete against each other within their schools to get spots in the Seeds of Fortune club program after high school. Our last program is our University Scholars Program and is made up of our alumni. That program is focused on career development as well as financial development throughout the years of college. Essentially, we continue to look at professional development, making sure they are thinking career ahead and providing financial literacy workshops for them as they mature into adulthood
Why is giving back important to you and how have you seen yourself grow as a person because of this?
Giving back is important to me because when I was coming up there were so many women that poured into me, and I could not imagine where I would be today if I did not have those women when I was growing up in my life looking out for me. I grew up in Brooklyn in a heavy African-American community where the motto in our schools were "lift as you climb, leave no one behind." It is my duty to be a part of this and I am glad that I found something that I can give back to other people because somebody selflessly gave it to me.
How have you seen yourself grow from when you first started Seeds of Fortune to where you are today?
I would say becoming a better leader, becoming more empathetic towards people and getting to see this idea I had in my mind, come to life in itself has been impactful. Our first girls from our pilot program just graduated from college this spring. All of our girls have helped me become the woman I am.
It is obvious that you work very hard to create opportunities for other young women of color through Seeds of Fortune. Outside of this program, what else are you involved in?
I actually work in media. I used to work at Viacom and I recently transitioned to a company called InMarketer, as a client success manager. I also volunteer with an organization, NAMIC, which is the National Association for Minorities in Communications, and I am a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Incorporated.
How are you continuing to shift the culture with your philanthropic endeavors?
For me, the scholarships are an educational tool, but it is really about financial empowerment. It is so important to be able to understand finances; college is the first financial decision you will make as a young adult and it can make or break what your financial situation can look like as an adult. With our scholarship program, we really try to teach the girls that every financial decision they make is extremely important and to be more thoughtful going about that.
What is your organization's biggest need and how can people support?
Our biggest need is donations. We have a campaign called "Sponsor a Scholar" and for a little as $100 or $19 a month, you can sponsor a scholar's programming fees. Donations are important because the girls receive a free laptop in the program, you can help cover her food, her books and special needs like professional clothes. A lot of them sometimes cannot afford professional clothes and it is mandatory in our program that they wear professional clothes. We want to make sure we are equalizing the opportunities for all girls and a few dollars really goes a long way.
Where do you want to see Seeds of Fortune go next?
Right now, we are only in New York and I really want it to be a national organization. One year, I forgot to include state requirements in the application and we received applications from girls all over the country. We want to help as many young women as possible, so being a national organization would help us do that.
Continue this sentence...I give too because
Someone gave to me.