Awards Scholarships to College Students in the U.S.; Funds Expert Help for Black, Female-Owned Businesses
As communities around the nation prepare to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday, Western Union, in partnership with the Western Union Foundation, announced two new initiatives aimed at supporting future and current business leaders from the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) community. Project Finish Line, an extension of the Foundation’s WU Scholars program, funds scholarships to BIPOC students working to complete their higher education, many of whom are attending historically black colleges and universities in the United States. Additionally, the Foundation took part in helping to fund business and leadership development support for Black, female-owned businesses through the Foundation for Black Entrepreneurship’s program, Sistahbiz. Both initiatives were created in partnership with Western Union’s Black Advisory Council, which drives access, progress, and opportunity within the Black community inside and outside of Western Union.
“Social exclusion, particularly concerning Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in the United States, remains among one of the largest and most troubling problems for economic mobility”, said Elizabeth Roscoe, Executive Director, The Western Union Foundation. “Our Foundation works with partners around the world to address these inequalities as part of a broader mission to prepare and connect young people to viable economic opportunities. We are proud to help enable opportunity for the BIPOC community as they carve out their unique and essential roles in today’s economy.”
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 60% of Black students who enter college do not finish their degree program. Those who do carry on average $7,400 more in student loan debt than white graduates when they leave school.
Project Finish Line helps address barriers that may prevent BIPOC and other minority students from completing their degree programs. In addition to offering 15 scholarships, the Western Union Foundation connects the students to Western Union employees around the world to build mentorships, an additional support system, and a professional network.
“Whether they realize it or not, these students are at a pivotal moment in their lives,” said Kanika Wilkerson, Western Union Black Advisory Council Lead. “There is so much data that shows higher education can be a bridge to opportunity, acting as a catalyst to close the wealth gap for so many deserving individuals—they just need an opportunity. Our goal is to remove the barrier and help them clear one of the most important hurdles, getting that degree.”
SistahBiz’ Unstoppable Business Grant program aims to address the dichotomy of Black women owning 42% of new women-owned businesses – three times their share of the female population – yet suffering from unequal access to capital, skills development, and training. The Foundation’s support came at a critical time during the COVID-19 pandemic, when small businesses were hit hard. The 20 grant winners will receive key business development coaching including leadership development, network building, marketing, and accounting services.
This year, Western Union joins other companies officially observing Juneteenth as a paid holiday for employees in the United States.