A wealth-building program offered at Hart House as part of Humanz of Hip Hop [presented in partnership with the Office of the Dean of Students, Woodsworth College; and the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology at University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM)] has helped students gain financial literacy. Three undergrads discuss how these sessions in early 2022 gave them confidence in money management, supplied them with practical approaches to plan for their futures … and proved surprisingly enjoyable.

Ashley Vadivelu (2nd year, Woodsworth College, Double major in Criminology and Sociolegal Studies and Sociology, minor in Digital Humanities) was hesitant to sign up for the Hart House Wealth-Building Series, a five-week program. But she knew it would help her reach her professional goals and offer some useful technological tools.

Ashley Vadivelu

She didn’t anticipate that such an experience could be fun – lessons were built around pop culture – or that she would make some new friends along the way.

“The aim of the program was to learn about financial literacy through pop culture which, at first glance seems like an impossible connection. But this challenged us to think creatively for the final project and apply our new knowledge to an aspect of contemporary life that we were already comfortable with,” Ashley explains.

Dr. Radha Maharaj

Led by UTM’s Dr. Radha Maharaj, the sessions bridged the world of finance and Hip Hop and sought to empower BIPOC students with the ability to navigate barriers and understand their personal finances within current socio-economic structures.

Like Ashley, Soban Atique (2nd year, Woodsworth College, Double major in Criminology and Political Science) also had some trepidation about gaining financial skills. “Prior to the Hart House series, financial literacy was intimidating and overwhelming,” he says, noting that existing material often featured complex terminology and complicated advice.

Soban Atique

He explains how the Hart House series took the abstract concept of finance and turned it into something relatable, understandable and engaging: “The workshop series broke down concepts in a digestible and simplified way. It provided numerous resources to independently pursue financial literacy, in addition to highlighting vital steps to be taken prior to approaching it."

Christina Liu (4th year, Woodsworth College, Double major in Pharmacology & Nutritional Sciences) as well, enjoyed the workshop series, emphasizing that it was “a fantastic way to meet like-minded peers over a shared interest: financial literacy.”

Both she and Ashley particularly appreciated the welcoming and inclusive environment.

Indeed, Soban noted that the series acknowledged the mental and emotional factors that are equally as critical as financial gain from wealth building. “Often, discussions around finances are centered around wealth and materialism, but seldom encompass the personal, mental and emotional traits that are inherently connected to it,” he explains.

Creativity Front and Centre

The ability to think creatively, in an inclusive environment, was a springboard to remarkably innovative ideas: Ashley, together with one of her new friends, built a website to showcase a collage of memes that demonstrated their understanding of the material.

“We were granted full creative liberty and given plenty of opportunities to demonstrate our learning, socialize with like-minded individuals and have an all-around enjoyable experience,” she sums up.

Outcome is Confidence

All three students found the workshops hugely rewarding. Ashley says she is, today, much more confident in her financial literacy skills. “The sessions provided me with a strong foundation, which I can now use to dive deeper into practices that align with my lifestyle.”

“I feel more confident in my financial literacy skills,” Christina adds.

Soban echoes these sentiments: “I feel far more assured moving forward and I am far more likely to continue my learning for financial literacy.”

Ashley urges other students to sign up when the opportunity presents itself again – it is slated for next year. “Regardless of your prior knowledge on the topics, I strongly recommend this program to anyone who wants to learn and grow. The course welcomes students of all skill levels. It's a low-risk, high-payoff activity that not only prompts you to reflect on your own financial practices, but also allows you to engage with the broader University of Toronto community. I would urge anyone with an interest in budgeting and/or investing to participate.” 

Christina chimes in, “Financial literacy is worth more than any stock!”

Read more about Hart House's Hip Hop Education program and The Wealth Building Sessions.