Ahead of Juneteenth weekend, Western Union (WU) is pledging a commitment to two new programs supporting Black and brown communities.

A press release reports that in partnership with the Western Union Foundation, the financial services company is launching two initiatives that aim to uplift both current and future business leaders across communities of color — including Project Finish Line, an extension of the Foundation’s WU Scholars program, and Sistahbiz, a Black women entrepreneurship program.

The former initiative will be offering scholarships to Black and brown students working to finish their higher education — many of those who attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) — while the latter plans to fund Black women-owned businesses and provide leadership development.

Both of these programs are in response to the racial disparities that exist for Black, Indigenous and People of Color across educational institutions and the business world.

“Social exclusion, particularly concerning Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in the United States, remains among one of the largest and most troubling problems for economic mobility,” Elizabeth Roscoe — Executive Director of The Western Union Foundation — said in a statement. “Our Foundation works with partners around the world to address these inequalities as part of a broader mission to prepare and connect young people to viable economic opportunities. We are proud to help enable opportunity for the BIPOC community as they carve out their unique and essential roles in today’s economy.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than half of Black college students in America are not able to finish their degree program, and those that do graduate have — on average —$7,400 more in student loan debt than their white counterparts.

Project Finish Line hopes to help reverse these statistics by offering 15 minority students scholarships as well as mentorship programs, a professional network and an additional support system.

“Whether they realize it or not, these students are at a pivotal moment in their lives,” Kanika Wilkerson — Western Union Black Advisory Council Lead — said in a statement. “There is so much data that shows higher education can be a bridge to opportunity, acting as a catalyst to close the wealth gap for so many deserving individuals—they just need an opportunity. Our goal is to remove the barrier and help them clear one of the most important hurdles, getting that degree.”

Additionally, Sistahbiz’ Unstoppable Business Grant program aims to address the obstacles Black women entrepreneurs face as they own 42 percent of new women-owned businesses, yet still have unequal access to capital, skills development and training.

For this program, Western Union and the Foundation will select 20 grant winners who will receive several elements of business development coaching, including leadership development, network building, marketing and accounting services.

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