Addressing Critical Issues through Volunteerism
By Tricia Landry, Senior Relationship Manager, Citi Commercial Bank Los Angeles August 27, 2015 11:00 AM
I’ve always known that LA schools can and should be improved, but hearing the shocking stat of high school graduation rates being at 60 percent astonished me. I was embarrassed that I lived in Los Angeles and was completely unaware that almost half of the kids entering high school were never going to graduate. Why wasn’t this a daily news headline? What was the plan? This motivated me to get involved, but how?
In 2010 I was involved in a leadership program called LeadershipLA that brought together individuals from the private sector and the public sector. One of the fellows in the program was Estelle Reyes, Executive Director for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (“NFTE”) of Greater Los Angeles. Over the year we became friends, and I learned about this great organization, NFTE.
NFTE inspires young people from low-income communities to find their paths to success. The organization works closely with educators in high-need schools to re-engage students in learning, introduce them to business concepts, and open up their possibilities for the future. NFTE engages youth by teaching them entrepreneurial skills, which eventually culminates in them participating in a business plan competition. Teaching entrepreneurship gives students skills that are useful across the board in their scholastic and life endeavors.
NFTE resonated with me on a couple levels. Growing up, I learned the value of self-reliance and initiative. From my first paper route when I was 10, to earning an athletic scholarship for college, I learned that I was in control of my own future. When I was younger, I had many coaches, teachers, and family members who helped guide me and ingrain in me a positive sense of self-worth and confidence. Without those individuals, I may not have succeeded. Given what I learned about the graduation rates in Los Angeles and given my background, I knew NFTE was the perfect place to get involved locally.
Over the past five years I have volunteered with NFTE in a variety of capacities. A couple years ago, I decided to further my commitment to NFTE by becoming a member of the Advisory Board. As an Advisory Board member we are tasked with engaging new volunteers and mentors for NFTE.
I have seen firsthand how the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress program has had a dramatic impact on students in the NFTE program. Since the Make Your Job initiative began in March 2014, NFTE has expanded their capabilities by adding summer BizCamps and Summer Startup programs in 10 cities across the U.S., including Los Angeles. These programs help youth develop the entrepreneurial mindset and business skills needed to make their own job and succeed in the modern workforce.
This is my second summer participating in the Startup Summer program as a business mentor. It involves a weekly commitment with a young entrepreneur, and this is where I find the experience to be most personally rewarding. Seeing a young adult gain confidence, bring together what they’ve learned in school and in the NFTE program, and seeing the excitement build as the business takes form is incredibly satisfying. Not only does each student learn that they are capable of starting a new business, but more importantly that the doors of opportunity are open to them.
Working as a relationship manager in Los Angeles with the Citi Commercial Bank, my role is to manage relationships with global companies and bring the full capabilities, resources, and Citi’s value proposition to my clients. I’m fortunate to be able to carry these skills into my volunteer activities and help guide the next generation of young entrepreneurs as they make their way in the world. Awareness of issues in our world is the first step to solving them.