Year Up links corporate sponsors, young adults needing direction
Year Up Puget Sound, which began holding classes last month, gives its students six months of full-time training and development, followed by a six-month internship at a participating corporate sponsor, such as REI, Google or the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Grand openingYear Up Puget Sound will host a Grand Opening at 4:30 p.m. Monday at its Belltown headquarters, 2607 Second Ave., Seattle. To RSVP for the event or to learn more about the organization, see www.yearup.org/locations/pugetsound.htm
Show up on time. Dress appropriately. Treat others with respect. Get your work done.
Those may sound like simple concepts to people already in the working world. And that may be one of the strengths of Year Up.
It doesn't ask its young participants to be superheroes, or to set unreachable goals. It asks them to be open, honest, committed and work hard. In return, it promises training, tools, experience and connections to help young adults succeed.
"Young people learn by observing," said Lisa Chin, executive director of Year Up Puget Sound. "We want to show them that this is a way of life, that these are more tools in their toolbox, and if they master these, it will help them excel."
Year Up Puget Sound, which began holding classes last month, is the eighth regional chapter of an organization founded in Boston a decade ago by social entrepreneur Gerald Chertavian, who'll be in Seattle on Monday for a "grand opening" at the local group's Belltown headquarters.
Its students will have six months of full-time training and development, followed by a six-month internship at a participating corporate sponsor, such as REI, Google or the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
"These are students who would never have made it through Liberty Mutual's screening process or made it off of a pile of applications at Alaska Air," Chin said. "Yet those are two of our founding partners who said, 'We believe in your program and we want to take on these interns.' "
Year Up aims to help low-income and at-risk students cross the "opportunity divide" separating many young adults, particularly those of color, from the business world, Chin said.
As evidence of the need, she notes that more than 4 million Americans between 18 and 24 — roughly 14 percent of that age group — are neither employed nor in college. Many of them, Chin said, have simply not been connected to support systems to help them advance.
Making an impact
Of Year Up's 4,000 graduates nationwide, 85 percent have entered college or found jobs within four months of completing the yearlong program.
Year Up Puget Sound will include a heavy emphasis on communication technology, a reflection of the kinds of careers available in this area. And like all Year Up chapters, it will cover corporate-culture survival skills: How to introduce yourself. How to send a professional-sounding email. How to present a proposal. How to work as part of a team.
Twenty-seven students were selected from more than 100 applicants to be Year Up Puget Sound's inaugural class. Applications are being taken for the second Year Up Puget Sound class, to start in September.
Year Up students will get college credit and a stipend of $306 every two weeks during the training and internship — an amount that can be reduced if they commit any of the infractions spelled out in a four-page contract, such as arriving late, not completing an assignment or failing to wear business-casual attire.
"I've always liked the idea of business communication, but I've never taken the steps to get into it," said one student, Tyra Williams, 21. He has worked at a pizza-parlor counter and assorted minimum-wage jobs, but he can't imagine how he would ever have crossed paths with the likes of John Stanton, wireless-communication pioneer and chair of the Trilogy International Partners investment group.
But in the first week of class, students got a visit from Stanton, president of Year Up's local board of directors. Staying nearly an hour longer than he was scheduled, Stanton told the students he'd be glad to help them make further contacts in the business world.
Seeing the participants, Stanton said, provided "the invigorating, why-we-do-it dynamic" to the two years of groundwork by local Year Up organizers.
The emphasis on communication and technology is a good fit for the Seattle area, Stanton said. "It could be a great opportunity for them to get involved on the ground floor of something that could grow into the next Microsoft or the next Amazon."
Creation of the local Year Up chapter was helped by multiyear funding commitments from The Seattle Foundation ($225,0000) and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ($150,000).
Corporate sponsors contribute $23,000 for each intern they'll host. Some students eventually may get jobs where they serve their internships, but Chin said that is not an expectation going in.
Kayla Willoya, 23, said she's looking to Year Up for a fresh start. Her background includes going from one foster home to another, dropping out of school in the eighth grade, and being involved in "stuff like shoplifting, stealing cars, robbing houses ... I know it's messed up, but that's what I was good at."
Now with a 3-year-old daughter, Willoya said she's determined to get on a positive track. She believes her computer skills, and Year Up's support, will help.
"It's like a weight lifted off of your shoulders, knowing you are in a place where people care about you," she said. "And it's not just the staff, it's the students, too. Everything they do is because they want to help. And you can tell that it's genuine."
Another student, Valeri Pitts, 19, had done some janitorial work and was working as receptionist at a youth-support program where she had completed her GED, when she heard about Year Up.
"Basically, when they were describing it to me, what I heard was 'money, Google, highly successful, college credit,' so I was like, 'OK, that sounds good.' " She hopes Year Up will help set her on a course through college and a potential career in law, psychology or fashion.
Four of Year Up Puget Sound's students will serve their internships with JPMorgan Chase, which was a founding corporate partner for the organization's New York chapter. Nationally, the firm has hosted more than 80 Year Up interns and has hired 11 into permanent jobs.
Two interns will go to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where they'll work in computer support, possibly taking help-desk calls, installing software or assisting other computer users.
Tony Bozzuti, chief information officer for the Hutch, said connecting with Year Up makes good business sense for his organization because it will bring in "highly motivated potential employees" from a diverse talent base.
In addition, Bozzuti said, "I think we're strengthening our community. ... Here's one more way we can help create opportunities and provide a ladder for folks that wouldn't necessarily get an opportunity to climb."
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or email@example.com
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