How one nonprofit helps people achieve financial literacy in Nashville

Today, a majority of consumers are experiencing some sort of financial difficulty causing a significant impact on their everyday lives. In fact, Americans carry more than $2 trillion in consumer debt and 30% of consumers report having no extra cash—making it impossible to escape the burden of living paycheck to paycheck.

April has been declared National Financial Literacy Month, and for good reason. The United States has recognized April as Financial Literacy Month since 2003, and CEE conducts a full roster of events throughout the month to shine a spotlight on the importance of economic and financial education. Too many Americans are insufficiently educated about their personal finances.

However, great work is being done here in Nashville to change that with nonprofit Operation HOPE.

Since 2014, HOPE Inside offices at First Tennessee Bank specifically have provided credit counseling to more than 2,400 participants through the 700 Credit Score Communities Program, which provides education on budgeting, debt management and building wealth.

Ken DeJarnette, HOPE Inside counselor, is a main component of that. Being a banker for 17 years himself, 13 with First Tennessee, he knows a little something about money. After leaving First Tennessee as a banker, he began with them the very next week as a financial counselor.

He now teaches a workshop once a month in East Nashville as well as conduct one-on-one sessions with clients who want to dig even deeper into their personal finances.

He’s very passionate about helping people become financially literate no matter what their financial past looks like.

“Whatever messy stuff you have in your life was there before we sat down, so you get a pass” said DeJarnette.

Through HOPE Inside Nashville, Operation HOPE provides complimentary financial literacy education and empowerment programs designed to foster financial wellbeing. HOPE Inside is a unique empowerment model that brings free financial dignity programming to underserved communities.

Clients are counseled on the language of money and work with an Operation HOPE Financial Wellbeing Coach to transform established financial mindsets and develop customized action plans around building their own businesses, raising their credit scores, buying homes, or simply making better decisions with the money they have.

Programs include credit and money management, homeownership preparedness, and small business entrepreneurship. Every office holds consumer credit counseling certification, CFPB, FDIC, U.S. SBA, EITC, HUD, and FEMA applications and partnerships. Through the HOPE 700 Credit Score Communities initiative, the focus on raising client credit scores to 700, and thereby bringing financial uplift to communities is at the foundation of all HOPE Inside programming.

These programs are beneficial for clients who take the information and run with it like one class attendee, Lynnita Springer, who raised her credit score 135 points in just five months.

“For the people who embrace it, it is life changing,” DeJarnette said.
For more information on Operation Hope visit