Flint-Area Students to Benefit from National Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative

(FLINT, Mich.– Feb. 21, 2017) There may soon be an increase in the number of young entrepreneurs who call Flint home, thanks to a partnership between Operation HOPE, Huntington Bank and the YouthQuest Afterschool Initiative.

Starting today, the organizations will begin piloting Banking On Our Future – the precursor to HOPE Business in a Box Academies youth entrepreneurship program – at YouthQuest, an afterschool program administered by the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce. Banking On Our Future (BOOF) is a financial dignity program that covers budgeting, checking and savings, and investments, with the goal of empowering students to take control of their financial futures.

This fall, the initiative will grow to include HOPE Business in a Box Academies (HBIABA) at YouthQuest’s high school sites. After learning how to develop a business idea and financial plan, students interested in further pursuing their ideas can participate in a program-wide pitch competition. Winners of the competition will be paired with local business mentors to help them further develop their plan and budget.

According to John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman and CEO at Operation HOPE, the youth financial literacy and entrepreneurship initiative aims to spur job creation, spike GDP growth and ensure the future prosperity of our students and our nation.

"HOPE youth programs connect the power of aspiration with the power of education," Bryant said. “We are pleased to partner with Huntington and the Flint & Genesee Chamber to bring hope and opportunity to the young people in this community."

Surveys show that Operation HOPE’s hands-on approach has been effective in engaging participants. According to the 2015 Gallup HOPE Index, 79 percent of HOPE students said they planned to start their own business, versus 42 percent at the national level. Additionally, more HOPE students have business internships (14 percent) and are currently running their own businesses (9 percent), when compared to their national counterparts at 5 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively.

On a local level, volunteers from Huntington will lead the BOOF and HBIABA curricula, judge pitch competitions and serve as business role models for students who win the initial pitch competition. Huntington is also providing full financial support for HOPE’s programming through YouthQuest.

According to Greg Viener, Flint Community President for Huntington, youth financial entrepreneurship is an important component of Flint’s brighter economic future.

“Operation Hope is an ideal partner to increase youth business, entrepreneurship and money management expertise among Flint’s youth,” Viener said. “Helping facilitate this relationship for the community is an important part of Huntington meeting our commitment to Flint economic development and revitalization.”

According to Rhetta Hunyady, Vice President of Education & Training at the Flint & Genesee Chamber, HOPE Business in a Box is the perfect complement to YouthQuest’s current offering, which includes academics, arts and culture, health and fitness, youth development and community engagement.

“YouthQuest is designed to positively impact the lives of students – at school, at home and beyond,” Hunyady said. “We’re excited to show them that it’s never too early to start thinking about business, entrepreneurship and money management. In fact, the earlier, the better!”

Media Contacts

Izzi Joseph Flint & Genesee Chamber (810) 600-4071 ijoseph@flintandgenesee.org

Caryn I. Anderson, APR Operation HOPE (404) 660-0573 caryn.anderson@operationhope.org

Brent Wilder Huntington Bank (614) 480-5875 Brent.Wilder@huntington.com

About Operation HOPE

Since 1992, Operation HOPE has been moving America from civil rights to "silver rights" with the mission of making free enterprise and capitalism work for the underserved. Through its core programs, the nonprofit has provided financial dignity and economic empowerment to over 2.6 million individuals worldwide, and $2 billion in economic activity for the disenfranchised—turning check cashing customers into banking customers, renters into homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners and minimum wage workers into living wage consumers. For more information, visit www.OperationHOPE.org.

About Huntington Huntington Bancshares Incorporated is a regional bank holding company headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, with $100 billion of assets and a network of 1,115 branches and 1,891 ATMs across eight Midwestern states. Founded in 1866, The Huntington National Bank and its affiliates provide consumer, small business, commercial, treasury management, wealth management, brokerage, trust, and insurance services. Huntington also provides auto dealer, equipment finance, national settlement and capital market services that extend beyond its core states. Visit huntington.com for more information.

About YouthQuest YouthQuest is a high-quality, research-based afterschool program offering educational and enrichment activities that engage young minds. Available at 15 sites in the city of Flint and Genesee County, YouthQuest serves nearly 2,000 students in grades K-12 each year. The program is administered by the Genesee Area Focus Fund, a supporting organization of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, with support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and 21st Century Community Learning Centers. For more information, visit www.yquest.org.