On the Path towards Economic Success: The Impact of Citi Foundation's Pathways to Progress through the eyes of Abe
By Rosemary Byrnes, Senior Program Officer, U.S. Youth Economic Opportunities, Citi Foundation October 23, 2014 05:13 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. Pathways to Progress is reaching more than 22,000 young people in its first year alone. In addition, over the past six months, more than 160 Citi employees have devoted their time and talent in support of the 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 second story from Abe.
Abraham Sierra - Boston
Abraham (Abe) Sierra is one of 50 AmeriCorps VISTA members that took the AmeriCorps pledge at a ceremony held at Citi Headquarters in July. Abe is an instrumental part of one of Pathways to Progress' flagship initiatives - ServiceWorks - a groundbreaking, national program that uses volunteer service as a strategy to help low-income youth and young adults develop the skills they need to prepare for college and careers. The program, which will deploy 225 AmeriCorps members over the next three years, will engage youth, ages 16-24, in service and will build a large-scale volunteer response to the crisis of low college and career attainment.
Abe, 26, is looking forward to serving as a ServiceWorks VISTA right in his hometown of Boston. He wants to have an impact on the lives of young people who grew up in circumstances similar to his. "I come from this community, so this service experience has special meaning for me," Abe said. "I imagine I'll be able to relate to many of the youth who will enroll in ServiceWorks. I grew up in a low-income household, with very few resources, detached and lacking guidance in many areas. I lacked self-motivation and dropped out of high school, but eventually obtained my GED. I want to inspire young people in my community to avoid many of stumbling blocks I encountered."
Abe recently completed a year of service as an AmeriCorps member working with City Year, and wants to build upon that work through his experience as a ServiceWorks VISTA member working with the Boston Private Industry Council. Through City Year, Abe was placed in a third grade classroom, initially tasked with talking with students about college and post-secondary education options. After learning more about the social challenges faced by his students, he quickly realized that he wanted to take on more responsibilities.
"Some of these kids were labeled as 'troubled students,' many of them living in shelters, foster homes and dealing with so many complicated issues outside of school," he said. "So while it was my job to talk to them about college and academic options, I found I was becoming more of a mentor for them. I knew I wanted to motivate them to achieve and to rise above their circumstances outside of school. I had students who didn't know a bit of English at the beginning of the school year, and by the end of my year there, they were speaking perfect English. Seeing them empowered and knowing I played a part in that inspires me to want to do more."
He hopes to have the same impact on the youth he'll work with as a ServiceWorks VISTA. This experience, Abe said, has awakened him to the "bigger picture" and fuels his desire to keep the young people he will serve motivated to rise above challenges. "For me, I've found that old saying to be true, 'give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,'" Abe said. "I want to teach these young people to fish."