A desire to serve: Head Start scholarship fundraiser has huge impact on teachers’ lives

pattern pattern

by Edward Condon, Executive Director, Region 9 Head Start Association

Financial Advisor George Fraser is a teacher at heart. He values a face-to-face relationship—meeting people where they are and genuinely helping them. All of which is why he has been so valuable to growing the Region 9 Head Start Association’s annual scholarship awards.

When you sit down with George, you first quickly find out how focused he is on educating people—especially teachers—on how easy it is to save for retirement.

“People are more concerned with buying a new tire when they have a flat than saving for retirement,” he likes to say, noting that as educators we must have empathy for team members immediate needs. He also notes that employees often hear they must save 15 percent of their income to have a decent retirement—so many errantly feel “why bother.”

That’s why along the way of more than two dozen years working in the financial services industry, he has developed a “Pennies-on-the-Dollar®” concept. Rather than telling folks to put away a percentage of their paycheck, he has discovered that asking them to save one “Penny out of every Dollar®” escalating by an additional penny annually is empowering and seems doable to most.

“Our goal is to provide a hopeful process”—a sentiment that resembles what a teacher might say about children learning to share and be cooperative in the classroom.

The “Pennies on the Dollar®” concept is considered so effective in the industry that he has trademarked the phrase. His approach has been recognized nationally by experts as to be extremely effective—and smart. In fact, for participants making under $25,000 annually, using this simple to understand approach retirement income can be 60% higher, according to Steve Shu, who researches behavioral finance at University of California, Los Angeles and City University of London.

George is a regular speaker at industry conferences and has been featured in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, Arizona Republic, Forbes Magazine, and USA Today. In 2017, he earned the first-ever “TAPO,  top advisor award by 401(k) Specialist Magazine, selected by industry peers and based on the creative and effective contributions to an advisor’s participants’ outcomes.

Also high on his list when it comes to educating clients about retirement saving is trusting that Social Security will be around for the long-haul

“It’s not going away,” he says flatly and points out that most people will receive at least $1,000 a month from the program. That means between ages 65 and 85, they’ll collect nearly $250,000.” This approach creates hope for the future…in turn the Head Start organization gets healthier, happier and more productive team members. Therefore a better experience where it counts most….with the children in the HS programs!

When a few years ago, he was introduced to Head Start, he immediately understood its core value of caring for children and families—which is a lot of what drives his work—and the ability to change lives.

In his own words, here’s what he discovered: “My first interaction was with Foundation for Early Childhood Education in El Monte, Calif. Marcie Houchen is the executive director. And she is a fantastic, inspirational partner. I was immediately impressed by the fact that the team members came to work every day because they love what they do. As you know in the “for-profit” business world that is not always the case. My sister Susan, a teacher for 30 years in Nova Scotia, always said that sometimes the best couple of hours in a child’s day often happen in the classroom. I realized that if I wasn’t aware of the excellent work done by Head Start most in my industry were in the same boat. Simply put, I wanted to help recognize the work this team carried out day in and day out to make a difference in the lives of so many. When I heard about the kids and the mission—the way Head Start teachers make people feel—I walked out inspired.”

George was compelled to make a commitment, volunteering his services to Head Start, which he says will be very important in his life going forward. He is encouraging the companies he works with to provide financial literacy courses to underserved families, and most recently was able to encourage them to make the contributions to the Region 9 HSA Legacy Scholarships.

Through his network across the nation, he’s also making known his commitment to Head Start in Region 9, and that is helping drive other industry representatives, in turn, to reach out to their local Head Start organizations.

Over the last two years, George—who is managing director for Retirement Benefits Group—has raised $75,000 in scholarship funds for Region 9. Those funds don’t sit in an endowment—but are used on a “raise and spend”—given out directly. The monies go out in real time to real teachers.

Over the last five years, the association has provided $100,000 in scholarships to nearly 50 Head Start teachers, so George’s fundraising prowess has made a huge difference in the lives of Region 9 teachers.

Scholarship recipient Gloria Anaya Torres, who is also a Head Start alumni, makes that exact point how the scholarships make a difference, “By alleviating the financial burden of graduate school, the scholarship helps me get one step closer to achieving my goal of becoming a Head Start director.”

George wondered how he could help—and he has most assuredly found a way that has significant impact all around.

“Fundraising for the Head Start organization has turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”

Thank You to Our Sponsors


Head Start Gear


Latest News

  • Admin
  • September 22, 2021

CCRC’s Response to Universal Transitional Kindergarten

by Michael Olenick, Ph.D., President & CEO with research by Aja Goare For more ...
Read More
  • Admin
  • May 5, 2021

Family Engagement Keynote Anthony Barrows: Applying Behavioral Science to Program Design

Do you know what’s best for you and your family? This is a simple ...
Read More
  • Admin
  • May 5, 2021

At 55 Years and in a Pandemic, Head Start Is Still Connected

By Edward Condon, Executive Director Region 9 Head Start Association Every year at Head Start’s ...
Read More

Questions? Contact us at headstartr9@region9hsa.org.