DURHAM, N.C. — McDougald Terrace is Durham’s largest and oldest public housing complex. The median household income for the more than 800 residents hovers around the federal poverty line.

But a program is helping the youngest McDougald Terrace residents learn how to plan for their financial future.


What You Need To Know

  • Wall Street Juniors is a nonprofit organization working in underserved communities like McDougald Terrace
  • MaKayla Booker teaches young people financial literacy because she wants to help them break the cycle of poverty
  • Booker is able to build connections with her students because she once was living off of food stamps during her time at university


MaKayla Booker runs Wall Street Juniors, a nonprofit organization that works in underserved communities to teach young people financial behaviors they can carry into their adulthood.

“I feel like they should have the same opportunities as anyone to learn personal finance,” Booker said. “It’s something that we actually learn through life experiences. And I don’t want them going through failures where we can actually teach them those positive financial behaviors at an earlier stage where they’re sponges.”

Booker holds her workshops in an empty apartment at McDougald Terrace. She wants her students to know the basics of financial literacy. During one of her classes, the students paint a “budget box,” which they can use to save their coins.

“If I can get them to understand how money works, how fractions work, how decimals and percentages and things actually function, then they can understand assets versus liabilities and how to budget,” Booker said.

The goal is to increase general wealth in a neighborhood that’s been facing poverty for years. Booker has created a token economy system so that students learn how to manage their money.

“This is an incentive-based program where you learn about your community,” Booker said. “You can receive Wall Street Junior dollars, and then spend them on merchandise like this outfit that I’m wearing. This is a piece from Wall Street Juniors. And then you can also spend it with other community partners that we have to receive their services, courses.”

Booker knows what her students’ lives are like. She comes from a low-income household. Her father grew up at McDougald Terrace. The struggles continued when she was a student at Georgia State University.

“I didn’t stay on campus. I stayed off of campus,” Booker said. “That was when I actually filed for food stamps. I didn’t receive very much. No more than $25 is what they started me out with. And that’s when I really realized I didn’t want to be in the system and there had to be more.”

She taught herself financial literacy by reading books and listening to podcasts and seminars. Eventually she learned how to make money work for her through investments and assets, including vending machine operations. She wants to help her students break the cycle of poverty and transform their lives.

“They’re not just learning how to make money. But also learning how to be leaders in the community,” Booker said. “I want them to be rich in their minds as well with their mentality and how they treat others.”

Booker is also working to engage McDougald Terrace parents on topics, such as investing in the stock market, building your credit and starting a vending machine business.