140619_her07_10Levi Esquerra

Age: 45
Hometown: Glendale
Cause: Financial literacy and business education for Native Americans

Esquerra, a member of the Chemehuevi tribe, grew up on a reservation. He was four when his father died, leaving a wife and five young children. “My mom was big on savings and education,” he said, and when he arrived at Northern Arizona University in 2002, he wanted to help other Native Americans succeed. Esquerra, director of NAU’s Center for American Indian Economic Development, is in his third year of teaching high schoolers, through a week-long camp, to start mock businesses. And last year, Esquerra created Seven Generation Money Management, an interactive, three-hour game typically held in a gym where kids invest in small cap stocks, pay for college, and draw “life happens” cards forcing them to make new financial decisions. 7GMM has become so popular, it has expanded beyond Native American communities.

Says Esquerra:

In 20 years these kids might rise to be tribal leaders. How much better off their tribes will be because these kids learned financial basics.”

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