On the Path towards Economic Success: The impact of Citi Foundation's Pathways to Progress through the eyes of Miles
By Rosemary Byrnes, Senior Program Officer, U.S. Youth Economic Opportunities, Citi Foundation October 21, 2014 05:15 PM
In March 2014, the Citi Foundation launched Pathways to Progress, a three-year, $50 million national commitment seeking to catalyze the economic progress of 100,000 low-income urban youth, ages 16-24, across ten of the largest U.S. cities: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Newark, St. Louis, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
The single largest commitment by the Foundation to date, Pathways to Progress is designed to provide youth with the skills and opportunities needed to succeed in the 21st century economy within four key paths: Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership & Service, Mentorship and Summer Jobs. The initiative contributes to Citi's broader mission of enabling progress in the cities where we do business and complements the work of our Citi for Cities initiative.
But there's no better way to explore the early success of Pathways than through the eyes of the participants. Below we share the first story from Miles.
Miles Johnson - Los Angeles
Miles Johnson - 17, from Pasadena, California - is one of 500 youth taking part in Pathway to Progress' Make Your Job's BizCamp program being implemented with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). BizCamps provide young people with more than 60 hours of entrepreneurship training and the support to grow their business aspirations. By the end of August, more than 450 youth participating in the NFTE programs successfully pitched 100 business ideas and won a total of nearly $20,000 in prizes for their efforts. Several of these students went on to launch 40 businesses generating total revenues of more than $3,000. This is Miles' story.
When coming up with a business idea, Miles was intrigued by the idea of helping people with low or moderate incomes save money toward retirement. Miles notes, "My dad and I talk a lot about retirement and managing our finances, so money is not a worry when you become older. These conversations are what truly inspired the idea behind my app. Growing up in a relatively poor neighborhood, I remember our neighbors asking us for money sometimes. These were always older people. This is the problem that I want to fix."
Miles came up with the idea to create "Next Generation Financials", an app to help make financial advice free and easily accessible. Before engaging in the NFTE BizCamp, Miles was not sure what to expect but was excited to be studying anything related to business. Although he traveled more than an hour each way to attend the BizCamp class, the coursework inspired him to combine his love of math and business to create something that he is excited about and believes in. In the future, Miles plans to attend college and, one day, be the CEO of his own company.
In Miles' words, "NFTE and the Citi Foundation have put me in the position to prosper. The program was challenging at times but in a good way, where I was pushed to do better. One of the instructors at the NFTE program said, 'Your idea is great, but your presentation needs work. Giving a great presentation will set your business apart.' That night before our NFTE competition, I practiced my presentation more than 10 times and forced my mom to listen. The next day I won the competition and that is when I knew hard work really pays off. There was an article written in the LA Times about me winning that got the attention of big companies. The California Council on Economic Education contacted me and invited me to give my presentation to their board. They loved my presentation and helped me develop my plan even more. The NFTE program has really changed my life by giving me the opportunity to be great."
In terms of future aspiration, Miles is looking at ways to leverage his experience in Pathways to help him get into the college of his dreams, Claremont McKenna. He believes that his app can help people and he is looking at ways to fully develop the idea further. As he states, "I believe my passion for numbers combined with the mobile app platform can change lives."