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Investing in community through finance and service

Growing up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Mesfin Symons, '19, experienced the effects of financial illiteracy firsthand. Those experiences inspired him to pursue a major in business administration, with an emphasis on accounting and finance.

"When I lived in Addis Ababa, planning for future retirement and making a sound financial decision was scarce," Symons says. "My biological parents were highly focused on meeting today's needs rather than worrying about saving money for future use. Seeing my biological parents struggle financially has pushed me to acquire more knowledge about finance and set a road map for my future financial goals."

Symons moved to the U.S. seven years ago to live with his adoptive family in Kenmore, Wash.

At Whitworth, Symons serves as chief investment officer of the Whitworth Student Investment Group, which manages the student investment fund in equities and exchange-traded funds. His role includes developing a cohesive investment strategy for the fund. The group also performs community service, which is important to Symons.

"Community service is important to me because the world has given me so much opportunity and so much to be thankful for," Symons says. "I believe it's the kindness of strangers and the courageous act of my adoptive parents that has made me realize the significance of giving back."

Mesfin Symons stands in the Student Investment room with one hand in his pocket and smiles.

This year, the group has offered assistance to the nearby Rockwood Retirement community.

"Our work involved cleaning up, grading, and teaching older people how to use Facebook and email," Symons says. "In addition, we spent time making Christmas decorations. We hope to continue this relationship with Rockwood Retirement in the near future."

Symons was nominated for the 2017 Spokane Philanthropy Awards as Outstanding Young Philanthropist. As a nominee, Symons received $50 to donate to a charity of his choice. He gave the money to Our Place Community Ministries, an organization he worked with last summer through Whitworth's Dornsife Center for Community Engagement.

"This experience opened my eyes to the various basic needs our community faces on a daily basis," Symons says.

The Student Investment Group also held a fundraising event for Hurricane Harvey relief in 2017 with the cooperation of Village Centre Cinemas. Additionally, the group has performed volunteer work for agencies such as Ronald McDonald House Charities, Christ Kitchen and the Salvation Army.

"One thing I realized while organizing the fundraiser for Hurricane Harvey victims is that as much as we dislike seeing suffering and pain in our world, there is always something we can offer to alleviate the pain and suffering of others," Symons says. "Sometimes we become so overwhelmed with school, friends and social media, we lose touch with our community. As a Christian school, part of our mission is to serve those in need; to provide help to those who are less fortunate in any way we can."

After graduating, Symons plans to take the Certified Public Accountiant Exam and hopes to receive a credential as a Chartered Financial Analyst.