Co-Founder Dares Prospective Students to D.R.E.A.M.

Welcome to Volume I of The Co-Founder Chronicles, a new, exciting feature of our blog. The Co-Founder Chronicles are posts written by Jaleni Thompson and Femi Faoye and provide you, the general public, with a chance to gain an inside perspective on our organization and engage with us directly. We hope you enjoy!

Reflections on Entrepreneurial and Innovative Spirit of His Alma Mater…

   On Saturday evening, November 12, 2011 in Pittsburgh, PA, I had an amazing opportunity to share my experiences at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) primarily with prospective students, some current students, and members of Administration during their Celebration of Diversity Weekend.  It was a very humbling and rewarding experience to be able to give back to my alma mater in such a meaningful way.

Despite my anxiety and nervousness, I wholeheartedly embraced the opportunity, gratefully stepped up to the podium and delivered a keynote address about my story --experiences through the “amazing gauntlet” that is CMU, shedding some light on how it helped prepare me for just about any professional challenge thereafter.   

The theme of the talk was fitting for the young crowd of prospective students – don’t be afraid to DREAM and take risks to change the world starting at a place embedded in a culture infused with a young, challenging, innovative, entrepreneurial spirit! 

I talked about my two primary jobs – by day, I’m an Associate Analyst at Moody’s Corp and by night and on weekends a “financial literacy crusader”.   The keen focus was on my “passion hustle”, as Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of D.R.E.A.M. and our advocacy for financial literacy in urban, underrepresented communities starting ahead of college.  I shed some light on the underpinnings of how D.R.E.A.M. was born, noting  “The Credit Crisis of 2008 made us reassess America’s foremost social issues -- the Financial Illiteracy Crisis was one that resonated with us and we knew we could help solve it…to put it into concrete perspective,  total Student Loans exceeded total Credit Card Debt for the 1st time EVER (as of June 2010) – THIS NOTABLY UNDERSCORES THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION & THE NEED FOR MONEY MANAGEMENT SKILLS AHEAD OF COLLEGE…

Some Amusing Highlights:

  • The universal, TERRIFIED look on the kids’ faces when I JOKINGLY mentioned that my favorite classes were Intro to Programming, Methods and Models of Optimization, and Multivariate Analysis
  • Some prospective students seemed to think I was MUCH older than I actually am and that I was omniscient re: the business-world (flattering but FAR from the truth)…I received some interesting questions ranging from “how do I start a line of day-cares?” to “Is this place for me if I want to get into sports and entertainment management?”
  • After asking a trivia question in order to give away D.R.E.A.M. paraphernalia, some students (afterward ) asked “can we get D.R.E.A.M. tote bags too?”  Since they are in relative demand, we’ll try to make sure we keep some in inventory for future events!
  • My favorite: “…I am a freshman at CMU and I’m from the BRONX too, so I was excited when you mentioned that!  Where EXACTLY in the BX are you from?!”  My view on this one is “real recognizes real” so it made me :-)!

All in all, it was a seemingly well received speech, for which I am very thankful!   After all, my intention going up to that podium was to leave my heart there…raw and exposed, as a representative of not only my alma mater, but of a MOVEMENT my heart is in!

The excerpt below best embodies the message to the  100+ prospective students and others in attendance:

CMU is and will always be, both , one of the most profoundly challenging and rewarding experiences in my life – it helped fuel my entrepreneurial spirit and uniquely bolstered my problem-solving toolkit.  I would call my experience here unequivocally life-changing…and yes, you may come out of this gauntlet a bit battered (and BRUISED) but infinitely stronger and more ready for any challenge – provided you take full advantage of the Tartan experience. 

You know what?! - I welcome and DARE you to (NOT ONLY D.R.E.A.M. but…) to take a crack at changing the world WITH Carnegie Mellon in your tool-belt!


About the Author:  Jaleni Thompson is the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of D.R.E.A.M., who dubs himself a “financial literacy crusader”.  



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