Name: Amber Paxton
Title: Director of Financial Empowerment
City: Lansing, Mich.
When 5-year olds start kindergarten in Lansing, they’re automatically enrolled in a savings account earmarked for post-secondary education. That’s one program Amber Paxton runs in Lansing. Another — free financial counseling — helps adults later in life. Now, as part of her work in the What Works Cities Economic Mobility initiative, Paxton is pushing to weave these programs together with others targeted at the ages in between.
For example: Lansing 6th graders sign a pledge to finish high school, 9th graders get help navigating the college admissions landscape, and high-school grads get two years of college paid for. Together with partners from local schools, nonprofits, and a credit union, they’re listening to what residents have to say about their service offerings, and have begun plotting steps for integrating them, such as launching a common website. They’re also designing a common evaluation plan so they can collect the right data to measure the collective impact of their work.
“It takes just one dollar in a college savings account for a child to begin to thinking about themselves as college-bound,” Paxton said. “The magic of putting all these programs together is you’re telling students at such a young age that we’re invested in you.”
“We all want to be the star of our own movie, but in this work, we should shoot for being ‘best supporting actor’.”