Tackling the Opportunity Divide in Boston

Jul 01, 2010

Boston's reputation as a world-renowned knowledge capital is derived in large part from the teaching and research activities of more than 100 colleges and universities located in the Greater Boston area. Despite these rich academic resources, however, roughly 17,000 young adults in Boston have not progressed beyond a high school diploma and are neither employed nor enrolled in post-secondary education.

The opportunity divide facing Boston’s at-risk youth is only getting worse, with the young adults who stand to benefit the most from education and work experience finding it increasingly difficult to obtain access to these opportunities.

Year Up is an innovative education and workforce development program seeking to close this gap for Boston’s young adults. Like Year Up, Bank of America is committed to strengthening the economic and social health of Boston and making sure the next generation is prepared to take on a leadership role in the community. Sharing this similar vision, Bank of America and Year Up first teamed up in 2001 to create pathways out of poverty for young adults and their families.

“We recognize there is a critical need to close the achievement gap facing at-risk young adults,” said Robert Gallery, Market President for Massachusetts. “In our partnership with Year Up, we are leveraging our philanthropy and business practices to empower Boston’s young people to obtain professional livable wage jobs and pursue post-secondary education.”

Year Up first opened its doors in July of 2001 to a class of 22 students in Boston. Over the past ten years, the program has grown to serve more than 300 18-24 year olds each year in Boston and 1,100 more students across eight other cities in the Unites States.

The year-long program begins with six months of rigorous technical training and classes in professional skills development, followed by six months in an internship with a local partner company.

“Bank of America has hosted 70 interns and hired seven graduates full-time in Boston,” said Casey Recupero, Year Up Boston’s Executive Director. “Bank of America has also played an important role in our growth, providing financial support that has helped us to scale our operations to serve more students both in Boston and across the country.”

Before Year Up, 22 year old Keith McDaniels was struggling to afford classes at a community college while working a minimum wage job. According to Keith, “I was really overwhelmed and frustrated by my financial situation and eventually gave up my college dream to work full-time for a security company to pay my bills.”

When Keith first heard about Year Up, he thought the program sounded too good to be true. However, he decided he had nothing to lose, applied and was accepted.

After completing the first six months of technical and professional training, Keith was placed in an internship at Bank of America as an Operations Analyst for Data Management. “I couldn’t believe my luck. I never imagined that I would be working for a bank, let alone one as well-respected as Bank of America. I came in early, stayed late and did everything I could to ensure that the bank would want to hire me full-time.”

Keith succeeded in impressing his managers, and was offered a full-time position. “This was a big turning point in my life. Three years later, I still can’t believe that I am an analyst at Bank of America,” continued Keith. “I learned so much through the Year Up program and thanks to the opportunity that Bank of America gave me, I was able to get my life on track.”

More than 75 of Bank of America’s Boston employees have volunteered at Year Up. Deborah Barry, a Vice President and Client Manager at Bank of America, was introduced to Year Up through work and became a mentor in 2008. Impressed by Deborah’s dedication and commitment to the students, Year Up asked her to join the Boston Leadership Council in 2010.

“Mentoring Year Up’s students has given me the opportunity to share my work experience while simultaneously growing my own leadership skills,” said Deborah. “I’m not sure who gets more out of the relationship—me or the students. I’m grateful to work for a company that not only encourages me to give back to my community, but also provides the means for me to do so.”

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