Cents Ability Inc.’s Roy Paul

Olayemi Odesanya | 4/5/2018, 3:25 p.m.
“We live in a country that is built off of being financially literate,” said Roy Paul, executive director of Cents ...

April is Financial Literacy Awareness Month. During this month, financiers advocate that young people especially be informed and guided when they are dealing with financial decisions. “We live in a country that is built off of being financially literate,” said Roy Paul, executive director of Cents Ability Inc. “Without being properly educated, Americans spend decades trying to repay their debt. I am a personal believer of being aware about this topic.” 

This past July, Paul became the executive director of Cents Ability Inc. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to educate young adults about financial literacy by hosting workshops and training sessions. 

Cents Ability Inc. was founded in 2004 by two Harvard grads, Alexa DuPont and John Moore, who believed in the importance of educating adolescents in low-income communities about personal financial.

From their research, they found that a little more than half of students did not have a discussion about financial literacy. In 2017, Cents Ability Inc. taught nearly 3,000 students and held approximately 500 classes. Volunteers from partnered organizations, the National Endowment for Financial Education and Jump$tart Coalition, mentor high school students in New York City and in some parts of New Jersey. Students who are enrolled in the free eight-week program learn about investing, managing credit cards, finding financial aid and student loans. 

“I am very passionate about working with Cents Ability because we aim to educate high schoolers before they receive credit cards solicitation and enroll into college,” said Paul. “I am proud to say that I am a part of something that has made a difference in many adolescents and young adults. It amazes me to see how past participants come back and tell us how they are grateful what we have taught them and advised them to.”

Paul grew up in Orange County in upstate New York. His father, now retired, was a construction worker. His mother is the director of a nonprofit mental health program that serves adults and elders.

“My parents were big advocators on helping out those who are less fortunate than you,” said Paul. “They were always giving back any way they could. They even became foster parents and helped raise children who were in the system. I think that is what motivated me to work and educate youths. Believing that you can make a difference in someone’s life just by giving advice and reaching out a hand.”

Paul earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Queens College and his master’s degree in media and film studies from New School University. He also holds an honorary doctoral degree from the Anointed by God Theological Seminary. 

At age 19, Paul worked as a school board official. “Not only did I become the youngest African-American elected official, but I was the youngest member going back almost 40 years.” Paul continued. “At first, it was a bit challenging to work with my co-workers simply because I didn’t have the same work and education experience as they did. When I wanted to do something, I did get a lot of pushback. I was told things like ‘Don’t talk back,’ and ‘Only respond when spoken to,’ but that didn’t stop me. I wanted to be proactive as a member. So I started to get involved with other activists who wanted to make a difference opposed to someone who has the title. One of the programs that I advocated for when I was a member was affirmative action. This program encouraged diversity with the teachers who worked in African-American and Latino communities. It was so bizarre to see how in-proportional African-American and Latino students are actually being taught by a person who resembles them.”