LUCAS — Edward Akinyemi believes being a solutions seeker is about making the world a better place — even if it’s just your corner.
With a non-stop news cycle and a world reeling with challenges, finding solutions can feel like daunting work. Akinyemi believes the key is taking it on one bite-sized chunk at a time.
“Even if the solution is not going to change the entire world, just trying to create some kind of solution to a problem, no matter how small,” he said.
“Your solution doesn’t have to change the world, it can just be a good thing, just make two people’s lives better. Because if everybody does that … a lot of people are helped.”
For Akinyemi, a native of the Netherlands living in Lucas, that means advocating for better financial literacy in the state of Ohio.
Akinyemi recently received a Solutions Seeker award for his work promoting financial literacy.
“I really was surprised. It’s nice to know people appreciate what you do,” he said. “I think it’s motivation to kind of keeping doing what I’m doing.”
Akinyemi co-founded Demeter’s Developments with his fiancee Andrea Mauk. The socially conscious business offers rent-to-own programs to individuals receiving Section 8 housing assistance.
Akinyemi and Mauk founded Demeter’s with their own funds, along with a $35,000 HUD grant administered through the City of Mansfield’s Community Development and Housing department.
They purchased their first property in 2021, a single-family home with a long-term tenant.
Under the Demeter’s model, tenants save for a down payment, receive personal finance training and buy the home, ideally after a year. Tenants receive a match from Demeter’s, which also sets aside a portion of each month’s rent to go towards a down payment.
“Our aim is to turn a Section 8 tenant into a homeowner within a year, ideally while they learn financial literacy and how to be a homeowner,” Akinyemi said.
“We also want to show that you can do good while still making a profit.”
About a year after launching, Akinyemi said things are going well. Demeter’s plans to sell the home to its occupant early next year.
“I think we understand now how it works,” he said. “The first person is kind of like a pilot.”
Akinyemi said the biggest lesson he’s learned so far is the advantage of seeing banks as partners and involving them early on.
“Letting them know what we’re doing so that when our tenant’s ready to buy, it’s not all new to them … it’s been helpful,” he said.
Akinyemi also testified before the Ohio Senate’s primary and secondary education committee last year in support of Senate Bill 1, legislation that enacted a half-credit financial literacy course requirement for high school graduation.
Akinyemi also gathered letters of support from more than 30 area residents, which became written testimony for the committee.
“I don’t think it’s a radical statement to say that the purpose of education is to prepare kids for adult life,” Akinyemi said at the time.
“It just breaks my heart just to see a few wrong decisions that people make in their younger years, how much that impacts ability to build credit.”
Senate Bill 1 eventually passed and was signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine. The course requirement takes effect starting with this fall’s freshman class.
Now that Senate Bill 1 has passed, Akinyemi has begun advocating for a new tweak to Ohio’s high school requirements. He’s informally named it the Math Reform Initiative.
Akinyemi has begun talking to legislators about reducing the high school math requirements from four credits to two and replacing those courses with ones he believes will be more relevant to real life post-graduation.
“Did you know that 78% of Americans say that they use no more than addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in their jobs?, ” Akinyemi wrote in a post on LinkedIn.
“So why do our schools continue to teach kids skills that kids won’t use as adults? Isn’t the purpose of education to prepare kids for adult life?”
Source Media Properties presented three Solutions Seeker awards — one for Richland Source, one for Ashland Source, and one for Knox Page — during its Reporting Reimagined event Friday.
More than 200 community members voted to choose the winners from a group of nine finalists that were nominated by the Richland Source, Ashland Source and Knox Pages newsrooms. The award recognizes a community member who embodies the values of Source Media.
“A Solutions Seeker is a person who brings people together, stands for north central Ohio, delivers on promises, begins with gratitude, looks for solutions, and iterates on ideas,” said Brittany Schock, Solutions and Engagement Editor. “They are actively working to leave their communities better than they found them.”
Instead of taking Algebra II or Trigonometry, Akinyemi said he’d like to see students take half-credit courses on mental health and substance abuse, entrepreneurship, life skills and media literacy/critical thinking.
“I’ve talked to Sen. Romanchuk a couple of times, talked to a few people at the statehouse, but they’re on summer recess now,” Akinyemi said. “I think it’s a good enough idea that we could figure something out.”
Akinyemi knows the idea may be met with some resistance and even some constructive feedback, but he doesn’t mind.
After all, part of seeking solutions is questioning the status quo.
“I think it’s just part of democracy,” he said, “ask questions.
“What I’ve learned just reading about other countries, democracies that might not be doing so well, is once people become complacent and just take it for granted, that’s when I think democracy kind of erodes.”