By Michael Zitz Beckham, Germanna Community College Special Correspondent NievesVirginia’s Community Colleges were founded nearly 50 years ago on the principle that closing the opportunity divide opens new doors. Year Up was founded only a decade ago based on precisely the same idea. It provides low income 18-to-24-year-olds with intensive training and internships that lead to college credit and good jobs. In New York City, where it was conceived, many of those jobs have been with Fortune 500 companies. Eighty-five percent of Year Up graduates are employed or full-time college students within four months of completing the program. In a keynote speech at the 2012 VCCS Chancellor’s Planning Retreat, Lisette Nieves, national director of strategic program pilots for Year Up and a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, said that today more than ever, we cannot afford to squander potential. And she explained how partnering with Year Up could help the system accomplish its half a century old mission in a

new way. The Year Up program was founded in 2001 by Gerald Chertavian, inspired by his years serving as a Big Brother and his experience as a technology entrepreneur.

“I thought it was so wrong that the opportunities he had access to in life could be limited due to things like his zip code, the color of his skin, the bank balance of his mother, or the school system he attended,” Chertavian has said. “We are wasting so much talent in a country where we have no one to waste.”

Year Up National Capital Region began providing low-income young adults in the Washington area with training, college credits, and corporate internships in 2006. “We have them from 8 to 4 every day and they get a stipend of $150 a week,” Nieves told a Chancellor’s Retreat crowd of 200 at the Wyndham Virginia Crossings Hotel & Conference Center in Glen Allen. For the first six months, the young people are taught what it means to be a professional. “If you tell me you’re going to be on time, are you going to be on time? Because there’s a contract to be signed.” If they are even a second late, there is a deduction from their stipend. Nieves said she is asked if that leads to many students dropping out of Year Up. She said it does not, largely because of peer support. “They actually call each other up,” she said. “They wake up early. They go meet each other.” During the second six months, in New York, an internship is set up at a Fortune 500 company, she said. Nieves said that when she has approached the companies about internships, she has been asked, “Are they students from our typical recruiting pool?” She responded: “Are we talking about the Ivy League? No. Are we talking about four-year colleges? No. Are you talking about community colleges? No.” One company asked, “Are you telling us this is a welfare to work program? We tried that and that wasn’t successful.” Nieves said, “No. This is about providing you with prescreened, quality talent that you have for six months. In order to host one of our talented yong adults, you provide us with a donation to support the cost of their education.” “Over 45 companies said yes to that in New York City,” she said. “The money wouldn’t come from their philanthropic side, it would come from the operations side.” Companies are willing to participate, she said, because of turnover. “We can play an important role in providing talent.” Despite the fact that Year Up is just one of 300 workforce programs in New York City, she said, “We found a couple of colleges that were willing to give 12 to 14 credits a semester” to young people in the program. The program provides is one community college should consider partnering with, she said, because the fact that their students often must work two or more jobs hurts their chances of earning a degree. When there are bills to be paid, she said, they must choose work over study. She said Year Up has partnered with Baltimore Community College and Miami Dade Community College and is working to expand its relationships with community colleges. “We know the stipend is important,” Nieves said. “We know that a learning cohort is important.” “We have to manage so many different demands as professionals. How do we do it? The young people we’re talking about have to learn it at 18.” Michael Zitz-Beckham is director of media and community relations at Germanna Community College.