Meet Wedbush’s Youngest Financial Wizards

By Alysha Conner | Downtown Weekly LA 

Assistant professor at California State University Los Angeles (Cal State LA), Dr. Marla Parker, and lecturer at Cal State LA, Dr. Melvin Armstrong Jr., teamed up together to establish an after school program called Wedbush Cares College Prep.

The program began operating as an after school program during the fall semester of 2018. It currently services high school students at PUC CALS Early College HighSchool, for two hours after school on Fridays.

Dr. Armstrong initially approached Dr. Parker with the idea of the after school program. Dr. Parker agreed to assist with the initiative, essentially believing that theprogram aligned with her values. Wedbush Cares College Prep ultimately received its name as a form of tribute to its primary financial sponsor, Wedbush Securities Inc. As anincentive last semester, students from the program were invited by Wedbush Securities to receive firsthand experience inside a corporate financial firm.

Explaining their motive behind creating Wedbush Cares College Prep, Dr. Parkerprofessed, “Being an educators in a higher up space, we really wanted to catch thembefore they got to college. We’ve seen the outcomes of not really having strong andconsistent interventions before college. So by the time they get to our space, there is so much that they don’t know. It’s the things that they wouldn’t even think about knowing,that hidden curriculum. For us, it was a golden opportunity to reveal that hidden Curriculum.”

“There’s a lot of hidden curriculum when it comes to using social capital. It’s also used when it comes to connecting, working, studying, consuming information, and expectations that we have of college students. The idea here is they become these self guided super insightful learners, where they can look at a situation and not just see it on the surface, but they can really understand the dynamics behind it.”

Curriculum currently taught within Wedbush Cares College Prep consists of:college preparatory, professional development, financial literacy, networking, stress management, entrepreneurship, time management, money management, and public speaking.

Depicting some of the lessons taught through the program’s curriculum, Dr.Parker informed, “One of the assignments we give them is a case study analysis wherethey have to analyze the history, moods, successes, and failures of their financial role model. Last semester we had them pick someone who they admire financially, personal or famous, to do this massive deep dive into understanding what they did. We signaled tothem that we don’t want them to only understand how they made their money, butunderstand their values and thought process. Also their social capital, like who gave them opportunities, and who did they connect with.”

“Another assignment was a letter to their future self where they are in this processof doing visioning. Visioning is a very powerful tool. We introduce this concept andpractice of mindful visioning to talk about their purpose. We also have them working on the notion of a side hustle, where they are able to flux their entrepreneurial muscles to earn revenue. We’re starting with this notion of the golden triangle of purpose, passion,and problem. A side hustle is that nugget that connects all those things. So thinking about your passion, thinking about your purpose, and connecting it to a problem, is really an opportunity for you not to just create change and exercise your purpose, but it’s an opportunity for you to get up your income. Which I think is really appealing to these students.”

Aside from knowledge based training, Wedbush Cares teaches students severalimpactful social mannerisms. For example on the first day of class, students wereinstructed to greet their instructors with a firm handshake, while also looking them intheir eyes. Dr. Parker and Dr. Armstrong presently reside as the primary instructors for Wedbush Cares College Prep. With the two professors being both African-American and having earned PhDs, they strive to expose their students to people of color who are educated and impactful.

“In LA, most of our students rarely have encounters where they have to be deferential to Black people. What makes our program so unique is that two Black folkswith PhDs are running this thing. It causes our students to think differently about whomight provide value, or who might be doing things,” affirmed Dr. Armstrong.

“I remember when he and I walked in for the first time. We were standing in thelobby, and people were asking when the professors were coming. Even though we were standing right there. Even just that in itsself, signals this conception that people have ofwho can have these professions as professors, and who’s expected to come back to do work,” Dr. Parker added.

Considering majority of the students being predominantly Latino and Latina in the Wedbush Cares program, Dr. Parker declared, “There is tension between the Black andLatino communities. Like there are assumptions in the Latino communities about who Black folks are. It’s really powerful that us as Black professors being is this space, areable to have the students listen to us. We’ve created a space for them to really express their feelings and concerns. We provide a space for them to talk about things that aredifficult for them to talk about because of cultural norms.”

“There’s a strong narrative, especially in minority communities, that if you justwork hard then you will succeed. That’s very different in more privileged communities where people’s connections matter. So we use this program as a way to reveal the powerof how your social capital can lead to financial capital, and how you leverage networks,”

As Wedbush Cares wraps up its pilot program in June, Dr. Parker and Dr. Armstrong hope to continue the program in the summer. They also have intentions onexpanding Wedbush Cares College Prep to multiple locations throughout California, andother states such as Illinois and Colorado. Furthermore, in the hopes of expansion, Dr.Parker and Dr. Armstrong are actively seeking additional sponsorships and partnerships.

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