Over the past 3 years, Boston Financial has given me the opportunity to work with Year Up, an organization whose mission is to close the Opportunity Divide. Year Up defines the Opportunity Divide as “the gap that exists between the 5 million talented young adults looking for a chance to succeed in today’s economy and the 14 million middle-skill jobs that businesses will need to fill in order to prosper.” The responsibility of managing these interns is great. The heart of the work is reinforcing Year Up’s values and one of the main tenants of the program: This is a Hand Up, not a Hand Out.
How is Boston Financial Involved?
Every six months, Boston Financial’s Core Operations Team hosts 2-3 interns. Several of these interns have successfully transitioned to full time employment at Boston Financial after graduation. The experience has been rewarding for both the young adults who commit to a 34 hour week and the numerous managers who support them. Our managers lead these impressionable young adults by example, teaching them marketable skills, emphasizing accountability, and preparing them for the next steps in their chosen career. The reward is high when they graduate, but the risk is also great as we strive to not let them become one of the statistics:
“The young adult “unemployment” rate grew from 10.6% in 2007 to 18.4% in 2010.” “The Great Mismatch.” The Economist 10 Sept. 2011
“The young adult (18-24 year old) Labor Force Participation Rate – those working or looking for work – is now just 59.5%, the lowest on record and down from 77.5% just 22 years ago (1989).” “Employment and Unemployment Among Youth,” The Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24 August 2011.
The Leadership Breakfast
On the morning of October 4th, Boston Financial was a key supporter of the Leadership Breakfast, an event held by Year Up to raise awareness of their progress in the local business community and promote opportunities for involvement. In less than 90 minutes, attendees learned multiple ways to help close the divide, including financial support (the event raised more than $204,000), volunteering time, and donating professional dress clothes for the students to wear to interviews and networking opportunities. Executive Director Casey Recupero also delivered some exciting news: Year Up Boston will be hosting 50% more students in their 2014 classes. We heard moving success stories from past graduates and firsthand accounts of the challenges faced by current students as well.
I was particularly moved by one brave young lady’s explanation of her challenges to the large audience. She is the youngest of 6 children, all of whom ended up in foster care and endured physical and mental abuse from their caregivers. Now, she is grateful for and committed to the opportunity to be the first in her family to earn a college degree. Her greatest wish is to own her own home and be able to support the children of an older sibling who is unable to care for them. Nothing puts life into better perspective than such a clear example of need in one’s own community. I left the event more motivated than ever to participate in the partnership between Boston Financial and Year Up – and I don’t think I was alone.
How Can I Help?
Year Up is operating in 11 locations: Atlanta, Boston, Providence, New York, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Seattle, and San Francisco. If you feel you could contribute to closing the divide and want to learn more, you can visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.