On the Path towards Economic Success: The Impact of Citi Foundation's Pathways to Progress through the eyes of Tracey
By Rosemary Byrnes, Senior Program Officer, U.S. Youth Economic Opportunities, Citi Foundation October 27, 2014 09:05 AM
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 third story from Tracey.
Tracey Bonsu - New York City
Tracey Bonsu is one of more than 4,000 young people to benefit from Pathways to Progress' mentoring initiative. As a participant in iMentor's mentoring program, her story is a testament to the power of mentoring in supporting young people as they transition from high school to college and helping these youth persist in their academic and career pursuits. In May 2014, the Citi Foundation announced a $1 million commitment to help iMentor increase its mentoring matches to 20,000 pairs such as Tracey and her volunteer mentor Patricia Voight from Citi, replicating their example of an enduring college success partnership. This is Tracey and Patricia's story.
In the first-floor cafeteria of her Bronx high school, iMentor student Tracey met her mentor, Patricia for the first time. It was the fall of 2011, and Tracey, along with the rest of her 11th-grade classmates, had been matched with a volunteer mentor as part of iMentor's 3-Year College Transition program. Although the pair had already exchanged a few emails over the iMentor platform, the day had arrived for their first in-person meeting.
During their first months getting acquainted, Patricia quickly learned that Tracey was a driven and busy student - spending her time juggling academics, joining extracurricular activities, and taking care of her younger siblings. Patricia also learned that Tracey was razor-focused on becoming a doctor, and she wanted to help her mentee realize her dream.
The pair worked on ways to keep Tracey's grades up and ensure that she was well-equipped with summer enrichment opportunities that would give her real-world experience. The only challenge was that each summer Tracey traveled to Ghana, where her parents lived before moving to the United States.
With Patricia's help, however, Tracey found a unique opportunity to volunteer at a hospital in Ghana during the summer before her senior year of high school. There, Tracey provided patients with necessary medical supplies, and her passion to become a doctor grew exponentially. The volunteer opportunity provided Tracey with a glimpse of the amazing work she could accomplish.
In the spring of 2012, Tracey was accepted to college and Patricia made it a priority to connect her with a family member who worked at a hospital in Brooklyn. Patricia also provided much-needed emotional support when Tracey found herself facing financial constraints around paying for college and transferred to a public university that provided her with a better financial aid package.
Now, Tracey is in her sophomore year and taking full advantage of the resources available at school. She's living on her own, managing her own finances, and learning how to be independent. Like so many iMentor pairs, Patricia and Tracey opted to extend their match through college completion. They text often, and whenever Tracey is back in the city, the two catch up over dinner. "Tracey is a very positive person, and even though she has challenges, she works hard for everything," Patricia says.