Young People in Our Cities Face Obstacles to Emotional Well-Being

The Center for Promise recently published a report that provides insight into the emotional health of young people of color residing in five cities across the country: Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, and St. Paul, MN. The report, Barriers to Wellness, includes research completed by the young people themselves.

According to the Center for Promise, the research arm of America’s Promise Alliance, the research was done with the express purpose of influencing program development and policy solutions.

 

Five Different Cities Facing the Same Things

 

“We talked with young people who were deeply affected by stress, though not immobilized,” Linda Sprague Martinez, assistant professor of social work at Boston University and the study’s lead author, told me recently. “What I found notable is that young people in five different cities were talking about the same things.”

“What we learned is that you can internalize your environment, and think it has more to do with you than it does with social policy,” Sprague Martinez said.

 

Credit: Center for Promise

“We don’t teach history—young people don’t know about redlining and the policies that came after that and before; why neighborhoods look the way they look today.”

As William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” We are living with the legacy of America’s racism, of redlining, and it’s affecting the mental health of our young people, according to this report.

 

Law Enforcement

 

Sprague Martinez told me that the relationship between young people and law enforcement emerged as a prominent theme in the research results, and that the researchers found their level of savvy and awareness to be remarkable.

“The minute your community goes from being ignored and neglected to becoming a desirable place where people want to live, you go from being ignored to being put under a microscope,” Sprague Martinez said, quoting the young people researchers spoke to for the study.

She said there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for them to talk about gentrification or the ways that law enforcement now interacts with them. But, it was clear that, after their community changed, police now saw them as a threat—as people the new residents needed to be protected from; as people who needed to “move along.”

“From a public health standpoint, as we think about sugar-sweetened  beverages—which is important—we also need to think about social dynamics in communities and systems of oppression that also threaten young people’s health.”

To learn more, go to the America’s Promise website.

 



Young People in Our Cities Face Obstacles to Emotional Well-Being

The Center for Promise recently published a report that provides insight into the emotional health of young people of color residing in five cities across the country: Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, and St. Paul, MN. The report, Barriers to Wellness, includes research completed by the young people themselves.

According to the Center for Promise, the research arm of America’s Promise Alliance, the research was done with the express purpose of influencing program development and policy solutions.

 

Five Different Cities Facing the Same Things

 

“We talked with young people who were deeply affected by stress, though not immobilized,” Linda Sprague Martinez, assistant professor of social work at Boston University and the study’s lead author, told me recently. “What I found notable is that young people in five different cities were talking about the same things.”

“What we learned is that you can internalize your environment, and think it has more to do with you than it does with social policy,” Sprague Martinez said.

 

Credit: Center for Promise

“We don’t teach history—young people don’t know about redlining and the policies that came after that and before; why neighborhoods look the way they look today.”

As William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” We are living with the legacy of America’s racism, of redlining, and it’s affecting the mental health of our young people, according to this report.

 

Law Enforcement

 

Sprague Martinez told me that the relationship between young people and law enforcement emerged as a prominent theme in the research results, and that the researchers found their level of savvy and awareness to be remarkable.

“The minute your community goes from being ignored and neglected to becoming a desirable place where people want to live, you go from being ignored to being put under a microscope,” Sprague Martinez said, quoting the young people researchers spoke to for the study.

She said there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for them to talk about gentrification or the ways that law enforcement now interacts with them. But, it was clear that, after their community changed, police now saw them as a threat—as people the new residents needed to be protected from; as people who needed to “move along.”

“From a public health standpoint, as we think about sugar-sweetened  beverages—which is important—we also need to think about social dynamics in communities and systems of oppression that also threaten young people’s health.”

To learn more, go to the America’s Promise website.

 



Yale Study Reveals that Racism Reaches Down to Preschoolers

Yale

The Yale Child Study Center has released findings from its first-of-its-kind research, to reveal some pretty depressing news. Preschool teachers, those working with children who are under the age of five, for the most part, show signs of implicit bias when administering discipline. This was true of both black and white teachers.

Eye-Tracking Technology

 

During the study, the teachers were told that the researchers were observing how quickly they could detect misbehavior. The teachers then watched brief videos of preschool children: a black boy, a black girl, a white boy, and a white girl. Using sophisticated eye-tracking technology, the researchers found that the preschool teachers “more closely observe blacks, and especially black boys, when challenging behaviors are expected.” In other words, both black and white teachers looked at black preschoolers more, particularly black boys, assuming that they would misbehave.

The study basically confirms that we live in a pervasively racist society, and that even very young children do not escape its harmful reach. The “automatic association between race and perceived threat of aggression has been shown, even when the black face presented was that of a five-year-old boy,” according to the Yale research study brief.

Adult Decisions

 

This implicit bias manifests itself in disturbing statistics. The Department of Education has reported that black preschoolers make up 47% of those preschoolers who are suspended one or more times, yet black preschoolers are a minority of all preschoolers—only 19%.

According to a statement released by the Yale study, previous research has shown that expulsions and suspensions are often the result of adult decisions, not necessarily the child behaviors. A disturbing article in the New York Times recently showed just how arbitrary a decision about suspension can be. Yet, suspension can wreak all kinds of havoc in a child’s life, and, as the America’s Promise Alliance reports, suspensions don’t work.

How did we get to be such a punitive society? If a preschooler is suspended repeatedly, maybe there’s a problem that can be addressed. Unfortunately, the Yale research also revealed that white teachers become overwhelmed when informed that a preschooler may have larger problems, such as poverty or home stressors that affect the preschooler’s behavior.

Black teachers responded more empathetically to such problems, but in general, were harsher in how they administered discipline to all children. Overall, however, they hold black preschoolers to higher standards and expect more of them both academically and behaviorally.

The good news is that bias can be reduced through training, and I’ve written about a Stanford researcher who has conducted such training in his work.

What About the Children?

children

I thought if I let a little time pass, the sadness, fear, anger, and frustration that has surrounded me since learning of the events in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas would dissipate a bit.

I just needed a little break in the clouds so my emotions wouldn’t be so raw and my thoughts could become clearer. That didn’t happen. I’m as raw as when I first heard the news and perhaps even angrier and more frustrated.

Whenever tragedies like these happen—and they are happening with a frequency that should shake us all to our core—my immediate thought is always, what about the children?

What about 4-year-old Dae’Anna? She witnessed what no child, or adult for that matter, ever should. As her mother’s boyfriend, Philando Castile, lay there covered in blood, she tried to comfort and reassure her mother. “It’s OK, mommy,” she said. It wasn’t OK. It was far from OK.

What about Alton Sterling’s five children? I can’t get the image out of my head of his oldest son, 15-year-old Cameron, weeping uncontrollably at a family news conference. We weep with you, Cameron, but our tears aren’t enough.

I think about all the students at J.J. Hill Montessori School where Philando Castile worked. According to news reports, the students loved him and he knew them all by name. How must they be feeling? How are they making sense of the senseless?

Then there are the sons and daughters of the officers slain in Dallas and Baton Rouge. How are they to pick up the pieces from this nightmare that will continue to haunt them in the days, weeks, and years to come?

We have no way of knowing what lasting imprint these tragic events will leave on the innocent. Unfortunately, these events and others like them have become an all too familiar reality for too many of our nation’s young people.

And I’m still left asking, what about the children?

We know more now than ever before. Today’s technology gives us instant and constant access to videos, stories, and opinions, leaving us nowhere to hide. How do we make sense of it, and how should we respond?

We have a collective responsibility to embrace, listen to, and support young people directly affected by violence and the countless others in our families, schools, and communities who are indirectly affected. They need us now more than ever.

All children deserve safe places in which to live, learn, and grow. They need physical as well as psychological safety. When children and youth experience trauma and are continually exposed to high-stress environments, the healthy development of crucial cognitive and social-emotional skills is stunted.

study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that nearly half of all children in the United States are exposed to at least one social or family experience that can lead to traumatic stress. According to a Center for Promise report, Don’t Quit on Me, young people who left high school before graduating experienced twice as many “adverse life experiences” as youth who stayed in school.

What does this mean for Cameron and Dae’Anna and the children of the slain officers?

We can’t go back in time and undo these events. But as more of the country awakens to the inequities and injustices that still plague our communities, we must focus on our most precious assets, the children.

We need to hold them close. Comfort them through their nightmares. Assure them that we will do everything in our power to keep them safe. Teach them to be fair and to empathize with others.

For those who have directly witnessed and been touched by this violence, we need to provide the professional resources and supports they will need to cope with the trauma. We need to provide safe spaces in our homes, places of worship, community organizations, and schools for young people to share what they are feeling and to ask questions. We should empower them to come up with their own solutions and strategies. And, most important, we need to listen and be present.

These are indeed stressful times. It’s hard to manage the heaviness of it as adults, so imagine you’re a child trying to digest it all.

I’m not sure what becomes of this battle, but I know that right now we need an army of caring adults to surround all our kids with the love and support they need. Without this army, I fear that these recent acts and the tenor and rancor of our discourse about them will forever change who these young people are and who they will become. Are we ready to accept whatever legacy that brings?

How we respond and support the young people around us won’t change what happened, but could make a difference in how they navigate forward. Let’s be sure when we’re asked, what about the children, that we have a response we can all be proud of.

This post was written by Tanya Tucker (@TanyaMTucker), vice president of alliance engagement for America’s Promise Alliance, the nation’s largest network dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth.

Formerly Homeless STEM Student Excels

STEM

This is a remarkable story about how homelessness led to a mentoring relationship between a scientist and innovator and a young bioengineering major. Moriah Wiggins, a rising junior at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, once resided at Brookview House in Boston, a nonprofit that provides emergency housing to homeless women and their children. When she was 6, Wiggins lived there with her mother for a short time.

According to a report recently released by GradNation, only five states report high school graduation rates for homeless students or students who have ever experienced homelessness. In all five, graduation rates for homeless students lag behind those of their peers in stable housing.

The report says that children who experience homelessness often struggle with behavior problems, absenteeism, and low scholastic achievement. Few become bioengineering majors at top schools.

But Wiggins attributes her success to the life-changing supports at Brookview, where she is remembered as a “very shy, introverted, and studious little girl who wanted to be a designer when she grew up,” recalls Deborah Hughes, Brookview’s president and CEO. Through Hughes, Wiggins was connected to a mentor who works in bioengineering.

Serving Moms by Meeting Their Kids’ Needs

Brookview’s programs aim at breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty by providing practical training and support to its residents.

“The majority of homeless families in the U.S. are headed by women,” Hughes says. Brookview provides “education and training, workforce development, and behavioral health programs that address the trauma of homelessness and domestic violence.”

The nonprofit also provides “a full set of services for children ages 6–19,” Hughes says. “We have youth development programs, after-school, a full-day program in the summer, and an outdoor adventure program.”

It was the rich programming at Brookview that inspired Wiggins’s continued participation long after she and her mother moved into permanent housing.

“I was very involved,” Wiggins says. “Until about age 13, I was in the after-school and summer programs. They gave out awards for being the best in math. It was a little bit of a competitive atmosphere that made you want to be the best,” Wiggins says.

Scientist Mentor

While attending the Massachusetts Conference for Women to receive its 2014 Be the Change Award, Hughes met scientist, innovator, and mentoring devotee Jeri’Ann Hiller, Ph.D., who was speaking at the conference.

“Deborah met me and connected my passion for mentoring with my achievements as a scientist,” says Hiller. “She thought I’d be a great mentor for Moriah.”

Hiller earned both a B.S. and Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She’s been at Boston Scientific for 10 years, where she now manages a team of scientists in medical device development.

But Hiller sees her day job as only one way that she’s accomplishing her goal of helping to improve people’s lives. The other is by mentoring.

“Having a real-life example of someone who is doing what you’re dreaming of and modeling the qualities you’re trying to develop,” Hiller says, “I’ve found to be powerful in advancing along my own path.”

Hiller hopes the mentoring relationship with Wiggins—which is fleshed out in monthly phone calls, in-person meetings, and e-mails—will help the young woman tap into her potential. “I hope it will help her find the unique way that she can bring her creative contribution to science and engineering.”

Hiller sees the relationship evolving as Wiggins’s needs change. “I’m thinking about future internships and ways she can shadow me at work in the coming year.”

In addition to mentoring Wiggins, Hiller mentors two protégés at Boston Scientific and enjoys having a mentor herself. She says each of us has the potential to mentor.

“It comes down to investing the time to understand what you’ve learned and how you’ve succeeded, and extracting the wisdom from your challenges and from what you’ve accomplished—and then being intentional about sharing it.”

The One “Fight” Muhammad Ali Did Not Win

Muhammad Ali

In the news this weekend about the death of former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, many probably noticed a heartbreaking sentence in one of the many retrospectives on Ali’s dynamic life. The New York Times reports that in the segregated schools he’d attended, the champ had never been taught to read properly. Ali confided later in life that he had never read a book, not even the Quran.

But that was in the past, right? Today’s students of color are literate and learning. If only that were true.

According to Building a GradNation, a report written by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University released in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, the country’s public schools face deep inequities and continued racial and economic segregation, not unlike the schools of Ali’s youth.

Here are some reasons to remember that the fight for educational equity is far from over:

  • There were 2,397 low-graduation-rate high schools in the U.S. in 2014, enrolling a total of 1.23 million students. (A low-graduation high school has a graduation rate of 67% or less.)
  • Nationwide, 33% of all non-graduates in 2014 were enrolled in low-graduation-rate high schools.
  • The number of low-graduation-rate high schools varies widely by state, from one each in Maine and West Virginia, to 203 in Florida and 276 in New York.
  • In 12 states (AK, NM, FL, AZ, GA, NV, CO, OR, NY, DE, WA, ID), low-graduation-rate high schools make up 20% or more of all high schools in the state. In Alaska and New Mexico, low-graduation-rate high schools make up 40% or more of all high schools in the state.
  • Students of color are overrepresented in large, low-graduation-rate high schools. Of the roughly 924,000 students in such schools (with 300 or more students), 65% came from low-income families, and 63% were African American or Hispanic/Latino.
  • In 15 states, African American students made up more than 40% of all students attending large, low-graduation-rate schools. Four of these states – MD, MI, TN, and VA – had African American student populations of 75% or more in these high schools.
  • Literacy rates remain low for black school children. Only 17% of black children completing the 2013 NAEP fourth grade reading assessment performed at or above proficiency.
  • Nationwide, 83% of black fourth graders read below grade level.

Will High School Graduation Rates Reach 90% by 2020?

The majority of black and brown high school students you encounter every day—a startling 63%—attend low-graduation-rate high schools.

In the “greatest nation in the world,” nearly 1 million students attend low-graduation-rate high schools—that is, schools that have an Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate of 67% or below, as defined by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

These sobering statistics are included in a report released by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University, in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, the four organizations that lead the GradNation campaign.

The 2016 Building a Grad Nation report is the seventh annual update on the challenges states and school districts encounter in their efforts to increase high school graduation rates to 90% by 2020. To stay on track to reach that goal, the national graduation rate needs to increase by 1.3 percentage points annually. The year 2014 is the first year that the rate fell short, increasing just .9%.

If the needs of students who have historically been underserved—particularly students of color and low income students—are not addressed, the graduation rate of 90% will not be met in 2020. The emphasis must be on all students.

“Regardless of the type of school,” said John Bridgeland, president and CEO of Civic Enterprises, in a statement, “we must insist upon results and ensure that every student receives a high quality education. We need to get beyond labels and get all students what they need to succeed.”

20160505_APA_#4_fb (1)

According to the report, in 41 states low income students made up more than 40% of the enrollment in low-graduation-rate high schools; in 12 of those states, low income students made up more than 75% enrollment.

In 15 states, black students made up more than 40% of enrollment in high schools that have a graduation rate of 67% or less.

The report exposes the racial and socio-economic isolation of these underserved students, not only in regular district high schools, but also in charters (30% of which have low graduation rates), alternative schools (which serve at-risk students, 60% of whom are students of color), and virtual schools.

The report includes policy recommendations, including requiring states to develop evidence-based plans to improve low-graduation-rate high schools. It is distressing to note that some states do much better with difficult student populations than others. Would that ineffective states were required to explain why they are not using methods that other states have found more successful.

For more information about the 2016 GradNation report, visit this website.

Women’s History Month: Carmita Vaughan, Founder & President, Surge Institute

Carmita Vaughan is on a mission. She is founder and president of the Surge Institute, the Chicago-based nonprofit that equips leaders of color committed to bringing education equity to underserved communities.

“I come to this issue not as a technocrat but as someone who lived this,” says Vaughan, who grew up in poverty and considers her background an asset. “We can’t keep talking about education reform as the civil rights issue of our generation without acknowledging that the people suffering the injustice are not leading the movement.”

Raised by a mother who became permanently disabled at the age of 29, whose husband left her shortly afterward, Vaughan describes her mom as a “badass” who fought to keep her gifted daughter out of the wretched public schools near their housing project in Birmingham, Alabama. Vaughan would grow up to earn a degree in chemical engineering and an M.B.A., and work in strategic planning, global marketing, and engineering roles at Fortune 500 companies.

Vaughan transitioned to the nonprofit space and worked as chief of staff of the Chicago Public Schools Office of High Schools. She also worked as chief strategy officer for America’s Promise Alliance.

“I did not come up through a traditional education background,” Vaughan says. “I started my career as a chemical engineer. I went to business school. People value that outside experience.”

As someone in a position of influence and power in public education, she encountered few people at that level who came from the communities being served. Surge Institute is one way, Vaughan says, to provide the tools so that such folks not only have access to the table, but can create new tables.

The key feature of the Surge Institute is its one-year Surge Fellowship. Accepting about 30% of its applicant pool for its current cohort, Surge selected 12 professionals age 28–40 with at least six years’ work experience in education.

Fellows are black or Hispanic—they must represent the students they’re serving.

Surge provides training in change management, negotiating, finance, and operations, as well as development work. In addition, Surge Fellows are paired with executive coaches. “There are hard skills, executive skills, that many people aren’t getting access to, and I don’t believe they need to get $100,000 in debt to earn an M.B.A. to acquire those skills.”

Vaughan isn’t content to just bring more black and brown faces into the education reform fold: “I wear a poor kid’s chip on my shoulder,” she says, stressing the value of socioeconomic diversity as well as racial diversity. “I see our communities and families from an asset perspective; not a deficit perspective—but that’s not how we are commonly discussed.”

For more information about the Surge Institute, go to http://www.SurgeInstitute.org/.

New Data Highlights Growing High School Graduation Gaps

(Image: File)

This post was originally published on the website of America’s Promise Alliance. It is reprinted here with permission.

The nation’s high school graduation rate recently reached a record high of 82.3%, driven largely by improvements among traditionally underserved students. But significant gaps remain, particularly for low-income students, according to a new data brief from the GradNation campaign.

[Related: Graduation Rates Rise, But Do Diplomas Have Value?]

The 2016 Building a Grad Nation Data Brief: Overview of 2013-14 High School Graduation Rates released by Civic Enterprises and Everyone Graduates Center, in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, shows that nationally 74.6% of low-income students graduated on time compared to 89% of non-low income students—a 14.4 percentage point gap.

The Data Brief was released as part of the GradNation campaign, led by America’s Promise, to raise high school graduation rates to 90% by 2020.

(Check your state’s progress in reaching 90% for all students.)

The Gap Facing Low income Students

Nearly half—47%—of the nation’s 2014 graduating class came from low-income families, and nearly two-thirds of the states have public school student populations that are at least 40% low income.

“In low-graduation-rate schools, low-income students are overwhelmingly the largest subgroup represented,” said Rachael Fortune, a director of alliance engagement at America’s Promise. “Clearly, this is a segment of students that must be better supported if the country is to graduate 90% of all students by 2020. We encourage state and local leaders to use data to set goals, then re-double efforts to reach them.”

Sixteen states graduate less than 70% of low-income students. In those states, researchers estimate that nearly 191,000 low-income students did not graduate on time with a traditional diploma.

The graduation gap between low-income and non-low income students ranges from a high of 25.6 percentage points in South Dakota to a low of 4 percentage points in Indiana.

States with Biggest Gaps for Low income Students

Size of Income Gap in HS Grad Rate vs. Non-Low income Student Grad Rates

Low income Grad Rate

SD

25.6

65.2

CO

23.7

64.2

MN

23.6

65.9

MI

22.8

65.6

WY

21.9

65.4

Minnesota Tackles Low income Gap

Despite an overall graduation rate of 81.2%, the research shows that Minnesota has one of the nation’s largest graduation gaps between low income and non-low income students—23.6 percentage points.

Four out of 10 students in the state of Minnesota are low income and they are graduating at a rate of nearly 70%. Minnesota still has almost 7,300 students enrolled in low-graduation-rate high schools, defined as schools that have a graduation rate of less than 67%.

But Minnesota is working to change those numbers.

The GradNation State Activation Initiative, a three-year grant collaboration between America’s Promise Alliance and Pearson, helps support a statewide campaign to mobilize Minnesotans to increase graduation rates for all students.

One of the grantees, Minnesota Alliance with Youth, through its GradMinnesota initiative, is driving the work through the development of a statewide communications campaign, the creation of a comprehensive online resource library for educators and practitioners, and the endorsement of legislation that advances the group’s seven recommendations.

GradMinnesota is a statewide coalition in partnership with the governor’s office and the Minnesota Department of Education.

Based on research, effective practices, input from young people and other key stakeholders, GradMinnesota offers seven key recommendations to increase student engagement and raise high school graduation rates. These include

  • replacing exclusionary disciplinary policies with more effective alternatives;
  • heeding data-based early warning indicators and providing targeted support to students who are disengaging;
  • providing transportation to ensure equitable access to learning opportunities such as after school programs, alternative learning centers, or college courses.

Educators across the state are adopting strategies that will work for their students.

At West Education Center Alternative School in Minnetonka, Minnesota, Alexia Poppy-Finley, assistant supervisor, said, “We pride ourselves on strong relationships with students. It’s an approach that helps the teachers and staff address the whole student and respond to emotional and social as well as academic needs.”

What Do Jobless Youth Need More Than Anything Else?

This article was originally published on the website of America’s Promise Alliance and is reprinted here with permission.

Urban Alliance is a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that matches disadvantaged high school students with internships, mentors, and a path to the workforce. This story is part of a series on the innovative ways that 2015 Youth Opportunity Fund grantees, supported by America’s Promise Alliance and the Citi Foundation, are placing low-income young adults on a path toward college and career success.

[Related: Susan L. Taylor on the National CARES Mentoring Movement]

“What do you need?”

Andrew Plepler posed this question to students at Anacostia High School in 1996. At the time, he was an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice.

A young man answered, “I need a real job.”

Plepler then handed the student his business card, promised to help him find a job, and waited for him to call. The call never came.

When Plepler returned to Anacostia High and asked that same student why he didn’t reach out, the student responded, “I didn’t think you were serious.” He added, “My friends need jobs, too.”

Plepler found jobs for this student and five of his friends, leading later that year to the creation of Urban Alliance.

Today, Urban Alliance places about 200 high school seniors each year in internships. The organization recently received a Youth Opportunity Fund grant from the Citi Foundation and America’s Promise Alliance to reach more young people in D.C.

“That exposure piece is huge for a high school senior,” said Nathaniel Cole, the group’s executive director. “I also hear from our partners about the value that interns bring to the companies, and how they’re getting something out of the experience just as much as the intern.”

How to Find and Match Interns
Urban Alliance works with the D.C. Public School System and the charter school system to find interns and appropriate placements.

After filling out an extensive profile and being matched with a mentor and a company, young people work 12 hours a week for $10 an hour. Interns must have a 2.5 GPA, an early release or half-day schedule, and a positive attitude. “You need to be positive if this is something that you really want,” Cole said.

To match interns with companies, Urban Alliance goes through an extensive process. “It’s intense,” Cole said. “It’s sharing our story, reaching out to companies via their HR departments, their community relations or corporate social responsibility staff, and seeing if there’s a way for them to partner with us.”

Companies also complete a questionnaire, which describes the job and what they’re looking for in an intern. “We’re able to make the best match possible by pulling information from that document,” Cole said.

Urban Alliance then looks for mentors in the company who can be fully committed. “We’re really looking to support them every step of the way,” Cole said. “So we do a mentor orientation at the beginning of the year to talk about what the standard is, what the expectations are, and how you can be successful as a mentor.”

The Biggest Change in Interns
After interns successfully complete the program, they become Urban Alliance alums, receiving networking and professional development support from the nonprofit for another four years.

What’s the biggest change Cole sees in students who have completed internships? In a word, confidence.

At first, Cole said, students often question if they’re good enough for the company they’re about to work for or if they have what it takes to succeed.

“Our students are nervous, like anyone might be, and that confidence begins to come through as their internship progresses,” Cole said. “And eventually they see that, ‘You know what? I can handle this, I can do this, and I am a value to my company.’”