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Robert Saunders, 18, of East Harlem, is a shining example of what a young person can accomplish if surrounded by supportive adults, provided with educational opportunities and encouraged to pursue a greater vision for the future. Robert began his relationship with Children’s Aid 10 years ago when his mother registered for childcare services at the Dunlevy Milbank Center. Since then he has taken part in myriad CAS programs, each providing him with a unique set of skills that prepared him for the next level of his education.

“In the Corporate Workplace Program, we would meet once per week for about seven weeks to do workshops on career readiness and interview skills,” said Robert. “Then, through the Youth Empowerment for Success program, we worked on résumés and talked about job placement and different professions.”

With an interest in law, Robert, 16 years old at the time, gained valuable work experience as an intern at the law firm of Pavia and Harcourt LLP, where he had an opportunity to apply his new skills during the summer of 2009. The following year, he continued to participate in activities at Hope Leadership Academy, piquing an interest in accounting and business that set a clear trajectory toward higher education.

Through the Financial Literacy Program at Hope’s summer institute, Robert developed more confidence, progressing from program participant to peer leader and trainer. The institute provided him with a foundation for responsible money management including budgeting basics, saving and goal-setting, understanding wealth and assets, credit scores and spending versus investing. It also offered him opportunities to develop his presentation and public speaking abilities. With an interest in business, he is now focused on becoming an entrepreneur and developing money management skills that he says will benefit him for the rest of his life.

“It’s good to know about money and to think about ways to save for the future,” said Robert. Robert is now working toward a degree in business administration from Onondaga Community College and has hopes of pursing more advanced degrees in business and marketing.