From the Heart of Compton to the Soul of Santa Barbara

By Nick Schou   |   November 4, 2021

He grew up in Compton, but Guy Walker has deep roots in Santa Barbara County going back to the 1970s, when he attended Dunn School in Los Olivos. “I was part of the ‘inclusion revolution’ when I became among the first of a handful of students of color to attend Dunn during that era,” recalls Walker. “I would become the fourth Black student to graduate from Dunn.”

A permanent resident of Santa Barbara County since 1984, the veteran financial advisor and founder of the privately owned Santa Ynez-based firm Wealth Management Strategies Insurance & Financial Solutions has provided vital leadership in Santa Barbara County’s nonprofit community by serving on various boards. In 2015, he joined the board of directors for the Endowment for Youth Community (EYC), an organization that focuses on providing resources for underserved and underrepresented communities in Santa Barbara County, with a special emphasis on helping create educational and career opportunities for African American youth.

Walker’s wealth management business model is reflected in his philosophy on nonprofit leadership. He defines true sustainable wealth as comprising the “Three Pillars of Wealth” – cultural wealth, community wealth, and, lastly, capital wealth. As he explains it, when operating in concert, these three pillars have the power to produce fulfillment, purpose, and a type of generational wealth that cannot be measured simply based on tangible assets. It’s an overall vision for personal and community development that he’s created and honed over decades of professional work and volunteer experience.

This concept of the “Three Pillars” plays out in EYC’s strategic plan, which was created in 2015. The first pillar is reflected in the organization’s mission statement: Function as a model to maximize the academic, economic, and social outcomes of young African American scholars and underserved and underrepresented students on the Central Coast.Walker says, “For EYC, cultural wealth means that everything we do with students, ultimately focuses on helping them embrace their sense of self, family, principles, and values. Cultural wealth speaks to how well a person embraces who they are.” 

The second pillar is reflected in one of the strategic initiatives of the organization, and according to Walker, is a continued dedication to community engagement. “We have taken on the role of ensuring that Santa Barbara County is aware of and engaged in the various social economic political issues that young African American students face not only here but in the entire country. It also is helping our young people understand the importance of community engagement – everything from how they personally interact with other agencies in the community to how they comport themselves not only with educational institutions but with potential employers.”

Pillar three – which involves the development of capital wealth – means building community resources for the next generation of young African American leaders. “We want to be the premier resource for all things related to the African American community in Santa Barbara County,” says Walker. “Therefore, growing our endowment is essential. In terms of employment and education, we are trying to develop a database that holds all those data points. If our young people want internships, we have a database of potential internships and future jobs. The concept of capital wealth is also manifested in how we financially support young African American students – first and foremost by providing funding for them to go to college or whatever post-secondary education they need. We also fund other programs related to education, focusing on academic and cultural enrichment.”

While EYC places a high priority on helping its scholars attend and complete college, “We recognize that college is merely one pathway to having a fulfilled life. We want to support our scholars on whatever path that they choose – as long as it leads to a purposeful and meaningful life.” Walker also believes that starting early is crucial. “We directly talk about this effort beginning in grade six – from elementary school all the way through the undergraduate years,” he says. “I would say that we have an impact on younger students also in the sense that if we have a sixth grader with a younger sibling who is in third grade, that younger person is also seeing a benefit as well.”

EYC’s focus on Santa Barbara’s African American community aims to provide a broader positive impact on the entire county. “We are creating opportunities early on for young people to come back and serve in the community,” Walker says. “In 2022, we are hoping to develop an African American leadership academy that focuses on helping individuals gain positions on nonprofit boards. It’s an achievement not just for the African American community but for the broader community that wants to have diversity.”

Walker believes that great progress is already being made. In May 2021, EYC helped organize an inaugural event for an initiative titled EYC Presents. Because of COVID-19, this first EYC Presents took place on Zoom, but also included a small live audience at the Lobero Theatre. “That happened to be the first live event the Lobero held since COVID began,” Walker says. The event helped EYC in its task of identifying executive-level African Americans who were new to Santa Barbara County.

“One of the goals of EYC Presents is to ensure that when executive-level African Americans move into the community, they are introduced to other community leaders in the county to make sure they are introduced to the county’s political, business, and nonprofit leadership,” Walker concludes. “When it comes to working with both the educational and business community in terms of building leadership, we all want the same things, and this work has already created a tremendous positive ripple effect for the community.”