ECIER Foundation (Educate, Create, Innovate, Entrepreneur, Relationships)
For Chareice White’s students, a piggy bank means so much more than a place to save pennies.
“One of our workshops is teaching them about setting up a bank account and investing money. We had a simulated experience of gong to a bank and opening an account even receiving a gift – in our case a book bag,” White said. “A student that was timid and quiet went to the bank and did open an account and shared her experience with other students. She said, ‘Miss Chareice when I went to the bank, they did give me a gift – a piggy bank.’”
The ECIER – Educate, Create, Innovate, Entrepreneur, Relationships – Foundation provides an opportunity to expose African-American students to experiences that they normally would not have, White said.
“I feel that God has blessed me to be able to make a difference in the lives of children – seeing them come out of their comfort zones and seeing how they transform,” she said. “Our motto is all about being able to make a difference in the lives of youth – not being part of the problem but part of the solution.”
White’s nonprofit provides a structured educational program, workshops, opportunities to grow as youth leaders and individuals as well as one-of-a-kind unique connections to entrepreneurs.
White highlighted impactful student opportunities, including visiting the NBC studios in Chicago where student ambassadors were able to learn from African-American business owners. The group was also followed by news crews as the students were surprised by tickets donated by former First Lady Michelle Obama to be part of her book tour kick-off in Chicago.
“It was the story of positivity for the night. This is important because you hear about when the kids are being challenged … but here’s something positive out of Gary,” White said.
While originally focused on high schoolers, ECIER has also put a middle school pilot program into place to help students at this level with such tasks as creating a vision board for where they see themselves later in life. If they stick with the program, there are scholarships opportunities as well.
“In eight years, we have given 74 students scholarships who were attending 24 different universities,” White said. “The younger students have the opportunity to receive seed money to open a bank account.”
Pivoting the program offerings during Covid has allowed White to launch even more lessons. A high school director turned a classroom into a TV studio where students were in charge and able to meet with and interview entrepreneurs.
“They were the cameramen, soundmen, host – everything was under their control,” she said. “When we first started, some students had not spoken in public so this allowed them the opportunity to express themselves and socialize with students they normally wouldn’t.”