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Educator Aims to Get Families on the Road to Equity

by Team Sammy

I am pleased to share Kayren Gray’s childhood money memories and insights on kids, money and financial literacy education.


Kayren is an award-winning educator, advocate, and business owner. She serves as lead consultant at MK Results LLC where the mission is to help organizations and leaders on the road to equity by becoming culturally-conscious through policies, practices, and procedures that close the achievement gap. As an administrator, she focused on climate and culture and the correlation between student-engagement and academic achievement.

Kayren earned her Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Texas A&M Central Texas and Master’s Degree from Lamar University in Educational Administration with a Principal Certification.

Kayren is a military spouse with one son and two bonus sons. She resides in Harker Heights, Texas where she is active in the community. Her personal and professional experience has afforded her the honor to share her experiences to transform leaders and organizations on #TheRoadToEquity.


Leslie Girone: Please briefly share with us a little about yourself as a child, teen, and young adult and what has led you to your current career.

Kayren Gray: I grew up in southeast Texas. My four sisters and I were raised by a single mother. It was a struggle to define my self-worth in a world where no one looked like me. I persevered through challenges and overcame social inequities. My unique school experience motivated me to enter education. I wanted to create a different experience in the classroom - for all students. I understand how important it is for children of color to see success in people who look like them. I enjoy sharing my passion for learning with others. And ultimately, I value the transforming impact it has on the lives of students who felt history—or school for that matter—was not for them.


Leslie: This a question we ask everyone. It is the question Sam X Renick asked himself prior to creating Sammy Rabbit and entering the financial literacy industry. If you could only teach a child one money habit, WHAT money habit would you teach them? Please explain why.

Gray: Every great victory begins with first starting the race. The one habit I would want to ensure children learn is how to budget money. It starts with engaging our children in conversation at an early age and answering their curious questions with an explanation versus a direct “No, you  cannot purchase this.” Many students do not have examples or the best example of budgeting and end up with a warped sense of the dollar because there was never a conversation. I believe many parents and adults shy away from personal finances and how much they make – it is the way we were brought up. We grew up in a time where parents did not free to reveal how much they made and include the kids in learning how to budget. Starting the conversation with children about how to budget and ways to avoid pitfalls is a key. There is power in providing kids knowledge and helping them better understand the WHY behind some of our financial decisions.


Leslie: Did you have a money mentor or primary personal finance influence as a child or teen? If so, please share who it was and what you learned that still influences you today. 

Gray: Unfortunately, I did not have a money mentor in my youth. Knowing what I know now, I understand the importance of teaching children at a young age about financial literacy. With the work I am involved in, financial literacy curriculum is essential and an innovative approach to close the achievement gap. After all, we want students to become educated and contributing members to our community, not educated and in poverty. 


Leslie: What memories do you have related to your first saving experience? 

Gray: In elementary school, the school partnered with a local bank to open accounts for students. I remember bringing money to deposit during 4th and 5th grade. However, it was elective to participate. It was not accessible to everyone. And, it did not teach the knowledge or provide the support necessary to sustain the habit.


Leslie: Tell us about your first experience earning money? How old were you? What type of a job was it? How much did you earn? What did you do with the money? What did you learn?

Gray: I grew up with a single-mother of five daughters who looked for ways to teach us lessons and keep us busy as you can imagine. During the summers when school let out, my mother would create a list of tasks she needed completed around the house or yard. Along with the list, next to each task or chore was the price she was willing to pay for the job. For example, the fancy china cabinet dishes and case were on the list priced at $10 for carefully dusting, washing, drying, and replacing them back as they were. We also got paid for reading books and had to answer questions about the book in order to get paid. These lessons taught me how to set a goal, plan, budget for what I wanted to purchase or save, and the power of hard work. It truly taught me that money was not something readily available without effort and putting in the work.


Leslie: What was your biggest money mistake as a child or teenager?

Gray: I did not realize the cost of my future and before I did, it was too late. I had to take out student loans to pay for college without the necessary knowledge about interest or anything else because at the time I was not equipped with the information nor did I have any other viable options.


Leslie: Did you work while you were in college? Please share a little about how working or not working while attending college affected you, your studies, and personal finance choices including student debt.

Gray:  I started working at the age of 14 by babysitting and working at the local race track in the concession stand. I realized I did not want to work long hours at a minimum wage job. During high school, I participated in a medical program to be a pharmacy technician. As a result, I worked as a pharmacy technician during undergrad. I had to maintain a job because I had a son and was married in college; however, I knew the value of education and made the sacrifices necessary to get it done.


Leslie: Why do you think it is important for kids and young people to learn about personal finance (and/or economics)?

Gray: It’s absolutely important. Financial literacy programs and curriculum designed for parents and schools are essential to close the poverty gap. Not all parents are financial experts. They may not know how to best explain money concepts. I will be the first to admit this. I know what knowledge of personal finance could have had for my life. With that being said, it is important to educate all in order to change the narrative.


Leslie: Do you believe personal finance should or should not be taught in schools? Why do you believe there is not more personal finance being taught in schools? Please explain why or why not.

Gray: Personal finance must be brought back to schools whether in the form of outside resources or added to state curriculum.


To discover more about Kayren visit MK Results, LLC.