When you receive good fortune, you are supposed to pay it forward – this is a saying Nitiya Walker took to heart. Walker is the founder and CEO of Seeds of Fortune, a scholarship program that empowers young women of color to obtain scholarships, and develop their career and financial management skills.
Walker, a Brooklyn-native, was able to graduate college debt-free after obtaining a prestigious full scholarship to Babson College. She greatly acknowledges the part that mentorship and support played in her financial freedom. During her junior year of college it became her mission to begin providing this mentorship and support for other young women in her community.
“Although I only had $12 in funding from the student government to start my organization, I knew I couldn’t let that limit the program’s growth,” Walker said. “In the early days I just focused on building a foundation, and making use of the resources available to me.”
These resources would include her peers from other universities (who served as the program’s first volunteers), and even free event space at her local library. Walker grew a program that started out as a three-day workshop for three students, into a program that now provides year-round mentorship for 43 scholars ranging from juniors in high school to seniors in college.
With the participation growth has come the growth of her team. What was once an individual endeavor is now one that includes a six-person executive team. The organization also has an advisory board with executives from Fortune 500 companies including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomberg, and AirBnB, to help guide the program’s evolution.
In just a few years the impact of the program on the lives of the scholars, or “seeds” cannot go unnoticed – thus far the scholars have garnered $6 million in scholarship offers from top Universities across the country and accepted more than $1 million in scholarship offers.
“Our motto is ‘Every seed planted helps a flower grow.’ Walker said. “It is incredible to see how our scholars flourish due to the mentorship and guidance they receive at such a pivotal time in their development.”
Walker is excited about the future – the program has plans to expand beyond its New York base to three additional cities by next year. The Seeds team also plans to create a digital community, so young women across the country can utilize the resources Seeds of Fortune provides to their New York scholars.
If you are a young professional interested in volunteering with Seeds of Fortune, visit seedsoffortune.org.
This story was written in September 2017.