January is National Mentoring Month. Arizona students and their mentors from our Phoenix regional office, pictured in 2019, gather after their final capstone demonstrations for the fall semester.
In October 2020, USAA made a big philanthropic commitment – over the next three years, we would contribute $50 million toward the advancement of racial equality by investing in diversity, equality and inclusion in our local communities. It is a commitment which we have not forgotten.
“We set some audacious goals for USAA,” says USAA employee Laura C., corporate responsibility director. “By focusing on closing the wealth gap through education and employment initiatives, our corporate responsibility portfolio can make a significant impact in our communities. Setting goals around financial counseling sessions, internships, scholarships and tutoring programs can help improve the social and economic mobility for underrepresented and underresourced populations. We are on track to meet – and, in some cases, hope to exceed – most of these goals by 2023.”
Much of the impact of the 2020 commitment was felt last year, says Laura.
“Our first $15 million in grants went to 27 organizations throughout the nation, with an emphasis on USAA’s local regional office communities” she says. “We projected 125,000 individuals would be impacted, but we were able to reach more than 200,000 individuals. I’m hopeful last year’s round of $15 million to 32 organizations will have a similar impact this year.”
One area of focus has been on minority-owned small businesses. By supporting organizations like LiftFund, USAA has been able to help community entrepreneurs like Nancy Brewington in San Antonio.
Nancy started her own business – Hands N Harmony Wellness Company – to help members of her community with self-care. Nancy connected with LiftFund’s Women’s Business Center for workshops and one-on-one advising. When the pandemic dealt a blow to her business, she was able to lean on LiftFund’s resources to keep Hands N Harmony afloat.
Another area of focus has been mentorships. One goal is to support at least 20,000 Black and Hispanic students through tutoring or mentoring programs, such as the Scholar Program at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
“The UTSA Scholar Program was funded in 2020 to provide at least 90 student scholarships in STEM fields and establish a mentor program,” explains Laura. “We are hoping to match all 90 students with USAA mentors."
By contributing to our communities, Laura says we are not only helping military and civilian families of diverse backgrounds today but strengthening our community for tomorrow.
“All of our regional offices are located near military installations and the data shows more than 40% of service members are from diverse populations,” says Laura. “USAA’s philanthropic efforts directly impact low- to moderate-income individuals by supporting their financial readiness and career opportunities.”
And even after we fulfill our $50 million commitment, Laura says the work will continue.
“Our focus on advancing diversity, equity and inclusion will continue moving forward,” she says. “We will continue viewing our philanthropic efforts through an equity lens and continue focusing on ways in which we can break through systemic barriers.”