October 17, 2022

"It’s really important to me to help close the wealth gap, to see people empowered and make choices that will help them build financial security for their future." - Susan Youngsman

Susan Youngsman, Summer Search Seattle super-volunteer and LPL Financial Advisor, was nominated and chosen as one of three finalists for the 2022 Invest in Others (IiO) Volunteer of the Year Award. IiO supports nonprofits by leveraging the resources, time, and talents of financial professionals to serve communities in need.

This prestigious nomination is for Susan's work with Tigist Abebe, Seattle alumna and Associate Consultant at Clarkston Consulting, in creating Money Mondays – an eight-part financial literacy webinar series designed to empower Summer Search students and alumni with financial knowledge, destigmatize conversations about money, and create a community of support for Summer Searchers. 

Late last month, Susan traveled to Boston with Therese Williams, Summer Search Seattle's Senior Program Director, and met up with Malika Graham-Bailey, our Vice President of Program, for the 2022 Invest in Others Awards Gala.

And Susan won!

Watch Susan's Volunteer of the Year video, via Invest In Others.

As a result of her win, Summer Search Seattle will receive $50,000 from the IiO Charitable Foundation! We are so deeply moved and grateful for this generous gift and for all of the work that led up to it.

In celebration of this momentous accomplishment, Susan and Therese sat down to reflect on the journey to Money Mondays, the joy of collaboration, and the many highlights of Susan’s engagement with Summer Search.

We present a few excerpts from their conversation, with minimal text edits for clarity. Listen to their full conversation on Soundcloud or Vimeo.

On winning the Invest in Others 'Volunteer of the Year Award'...

[Susan Youngsman]: This is our award. And we did this together... I think of you Therese, Tigist Abebe, and me. We were kind of like the three core people that were consistent from the get-go. It means so much to me that we came up with this idea and made it happen.

To be in collaboration and to do this as a partnership, as a team, was a rich experience for me because I learned a lot. I learned a lot from you Therese, because you are such a badass in how you communicate, how you kept us on-point. I love you. You are so amazing. And to work with Tigist, oh my gosh, she's phenomenal, and she's become a dear friend, and so have you. I got so much out of this and we accomplished our goal, which was to do Money Mondays for a year and cover eight topics!

So, this award, I see it as an award for us. It's an award for our team, for our work together for Summer Search Seattle. And it's calling attention to Summer Search and people are learning about the work. And besides, Summer Search gets 50 grand! I'm so happy about that.

Money Mondays: The virtual financial series for Summer Searchers, created and presented by Susan Youngsman and Tigist Abebe, with support from Therese Williams and many others.

On impactful moments from Money Mondays...

[Susan]: We talked about the joy of the collaboration, which was really cool. I think what stands out for me most is that Tigist and I talked a lot about how we wanted to create a safe space for people to ask their questions, to come forward, to just abolish taboos around money - or acknowledge that they exist. And then to say, this is where you can talk about it and really try to make it a place where people felt safe and also authentic.

You know, everybody has questions. I've been an advisor for 30 years, I'm still learning stuff every day. So of course you're going to have questions, you're not going to know everything. From the feedback we got, we did create that space where participants could interact. It meant so much to me to, to hear their questions and see their engagement.

[Therese Williams]: Yes, I would agree. Even just sitting in those live Zoom sessions with you and Tigist and our guest speakers - seeing the chat box light up with ‘yeah!’, ‘me too’, ‘this is what I've been doing’, and ‘yep, I did that too!’.

We were able to be in a safe community where we could feel the confidence and courage and vulnerability to lean in and like just really share with one another. That's true, authentic community to me.

Malika Graham-Bailey, Susan Youngsman and Therese Williams at the IiO Awards Gala.

On embracing cultural differences and 'alternative' approaches to financial wellness...

[Susan]: Tigist told a story of a way of saving [money] from her culture in Ethiopia... you get a group of eight friends together, each person saves a thousand dollars a month, and the first month one person gets $8,000, [then] the second month, another person gets $8,000.

Now, to someone very individualistic like me, I'm like, 'ah, how do you trust anyone to do that?' But if you, in your culture have deep trust and those relational bonds, from a behavioral economics point of view, that has so much power! Because you have accountability to other people, and you have that win of $8,000 in your bank account.

I love this idea that there is more than one way to go about things and that every culture has something to offer. My experience in finance has shown that some things work for one person, they may not work for another. So you're constantly looking for what’s really going to resonate with this person, and be effective.

[Therese]: The cultural wealth that our participants have is super valuable. I think that we contributed to something special by creating a space where folks could share, and I'm grateful for Tigist in leading in that transparency because I think the conversation about financial wellbeing, as it relates to Summer Search and in general, is expansive.

And it should be inclusive of all of the ways that our participants bring that cultural wealth with them when it comes to relationship with money, things that work for them - that's resourceful, that's sharing, that's helpful!

On being involved with Summer Search...

[Susan]: I learned about Summer Search when I was working to mentor some kids at my daughter's high school and [I was] really struggling -- it was hard to mentor kids. It's hard to know what to say, how to draw them out. And I just happened to be in the bookstore and [Summer Search founder] Linda Mornell's book was sitting there on the shelf, Forever Changed: How Summer Experience and Insight Mentoring Changed Lives. I grabbed it. I was like, 'oh my gosh,' this so mirrors my own life experience...

Along the way I had amazing mentors, the good fortune to have a Sunday school teacher, a friend, a friend's mother... different people coming into my life who took an interest in me, gave me advice, took me under their wing. Those people shaped my life and really helped me see myself in a different light and realize my potential. So, when I saw what Summer Search was doing, I was like, 'this is exactly what worked for me'!

I'm just so grateful that I've had this opportunity to work with Summer Search. I've met so many amazing people through this experience, through this work, and it's added so much richness to my life. I’m so, so grateful.

[Therese]: Thank you, Susan. Rich in relationship is how I feel. This Money Mondays project and the whole experience we had together is what I'm feeling today. Just really rich in relationship with you. Thank you so much for your time.

Please join us in celebrating and congratulating Susan, Therese, Tigist, and the Summer Search Seattle team for an incredible achievement!

Susan Youngsman holding a check for ,000 for Summer Search

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