The dfree@KeanUniv program was launched at the Economic Empowerment: Advancing Financial Literacy Summit in Edgartown, Massachusetts, an event co-hosted with Prudential Financial that focused on how anchor institutions can uplift their local communities.
The summit included remarks from Kean President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D.; Shané Harris, vice president, head of social responsibility and partnerships at Prudential Financial and president, The Prudential Foundation; Reta Jo Lewis, president and chair of the Board of Directors of the Export-Import Bank of the United States; Sancha K. Gray, Ed.D., senior vice president of Entrepreneurial Education Initiatives (EEI) at Kean; Clarinda Joseph-Cumberbatch, chief operating officer at Kean University Foundation; and other business leaders.
“Kean’s mission as an anchor institution is to foster the well-being of all our students and their families. Today, we take pride in showcasing our new financial literacy initiative alongside esteemed leaders from Prudential, dfree Foundation and other key partners,” said Repollet. “Our aim is to empower families to pave their own path toward success, and we recognize that financial literacy plays a vital role in this endeavor. These collaborations between public and private entities are crucial in advancing our shared objectives.”
Harris said Prudential is committed to developing long-term partnerships that strengthen communities as part of the company’s purpose of making lives better by solving the financial challenges of the changing world.
“Prudential and Kean University share a common perspective as anchors in our communities,” Harris said. “We are excited to be part of Kean’s efforts to strengthen the financial security of families in New Jersey through greater financial education, empowering today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders in their communities.”
Under the new financial education initiative, Kean will secure 1,500 licenses for a new digital tool from dfree®️, founded by Rev. Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr. to educate, motivate and support people on their path to financial freedom. The program is funded through a federal earmarked appropriation focused on generation-to-generation strategies. The app provides information about everything from reducing credit card debt to budgeting and is easily accessible on mobile devices in real time.
“I am honored to partner with Kean University in our launch of dfree Digital, a digital, interactive and intuitive platform that makes financial education an experience that turns into a lifestyle,” Soaries said.
Gray said the licenses will be distributed through Kean’s EEI Generation to Generation program (G2G) that supports young people and their families. Support will be provided in English and Spanish.
“Equipping students and their families with the dfree@KeanUniv financial literacy app supports them in making informed financial decisions and is crucial in breaking the cycle of debt and building generational wealth,” said Gray, who added that the digital tool enables better management of resources and leads to improved long-term financial stability.
The University will use federal funding that was sponsored by U.S. Representative Donald Payne Jr., from New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District, to purchase the tool.
The event was moderated by global executive and business strategist Jackie P. Taylor, who said financial education initiatives help “foster a generation of financially savvy individuals.”
“Financial literacy is not merely about balancing budgets or understanding credit scores; it is about empowering individuals to make informed decisions in the modern financial landscape,” said Taylor. “The dfree@KeanUniv Financial Literacy Program is a core component of economic empowerment and supports students and families in making smart financial choices, building wealth, and securing a brighter future for themselves.”
James Smith, co-founder and president of J. Anderson & Associates in Florham Park, spoke about the impact of financial literacy on careers.
“As an executive search firm, we understand the importance of equipping students and families with financial knowledge to navigate today’s complex economy. We commend Kean University for launching this new financial education initiative and are proud to be a partner in the initiative, which can make a lasting impact on countless individuals in our communities,” Smith said.
Joseph-Cumberbatch noted the Kean University Foundation is dedicated to garnering support for scholarships to enable more students to pursue a college education, enter the workforce, and elevate the standard of living for their families. She emphasized the crucial role that the University plays in driving economic growth in the community.
“Many Kean students come straight from our local communities, and an investment in their education will pay off in many ways for those around them,” Joseph-Cumberbatch said. “We are proud to partner with Prudential Financial and other organizations that prioritize equity and inclusion in their endeavors.”
Lewis highlighted the role that Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) financing can play in empowering businesses – including Black-owned, women-owned, or small businesses – looking to export goods overseas.
“We know that for EXIM to truly meet our mission and realize our agency’s fullest potential, we must ensure that we continue to support and advance opportunities for historically underserved and marginalized communities,” Lewis said. “I look forward to continuing our productive and engaging conversation.”