By GABRIELLA CRUZ-MARTÍNEZ
The Obama Foundation and Urban Alliance, a national youth development nonprofit organization, launched the Obama Youth Jobs Corps on Wednesday, March 21, to bring workforce readiness training to high school sophomores and juniors on Chicago’s South Side over the next five years.
The program will help prepare youth from underserved communities for economic self-sufficiency and expanded opportunity. Obama Youth Jobs Corps (OYJC) will also partner with businesses in Chicago to provide paid, professional internships to high school seniors, giving students the skills, experience, and exposure needed to succeed in a 21st century economy.
Beginning with a pilot group of students at Hyde Park Academy High School, Kenwood Academy High School, and Little Black Pearl Art & Design Academy, OYJC will provide five workforce readiness training sessions in the 10th grade year to lay the groundwork for professional development; weekly job skills training sessions in the 11th grade year, delving deeply into professional development, financial literacy, post-high-school planning, and increased exposure to the professional world; and 10-month, paid, professional internships in the 12th grade year through Urban Alliance’s flagship High School Internship Program, which combines work experience with job skills training, one-on-one mentoring, and comprehensive support services during and after the internship.
The program is expected to expand to additional schools for the 2018-2019 school year.
“Access to opportunities is the key to success for young people living on Chicago’s South Side,” said David Simas, CEO of The Obama Foundation. “The Obama Foundation is about empowering the next generation of leaders to make change and that’s exactly what this new partnership with the Urban Alliance is all about. The Obama Youth Jobs Corps is one initiative that will help reduce barriers and open up more opportunities for young people in Chicago, and we’re excited to get started.”
With over 20 years of experience providing evidence-based workforce interventions to thousands of economically-disadvantaged students in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Northern Virginia, Urban Alliance has a proven track record of improving post-high school outcomes for underserved youth.
“Urban Alliance’s mission to help underserved youth expand their idea of what is possible for their future and set them on a path to economic stability perfectly aligns with the Obama Foundation’s goal of equipping young leaders with the tools needed to create change in their lives and communities,” said Eshauna Smith, CEO of Urban Alliance. “We’re excited to partner with an organization focused on uplifting our youth to give more students the skills needed to succeed in today’s workforce.”
Partners, like the Hyatt Hotel Foundation can offer youth “real-world experiences” to set them up for future success in college, the job market and beyond, according to Urban Alliance.
“Hyatt is excited to expand its partnership with Urban Alliance in our hometown Chicago,” said Malaika Myers, chief human resources officer at Hyatt. “We are fortunate to be in an industry that can help close the opportunity gap, which is why nearly half of the Hyatt hotels around the world have relationships with organizations that support opportunity youth. Initiatives like the Obama Youth Jobs Corps allow us to make an impact and bring our purpose – to care for people so they can be their best – to life in our communities. We are also pleased that the Hyatt Hotels Foundation has committed to a multi-year donation to Urban Alliance.”
A recent six-year randomized controlled trial found that completing the High School Internship Program had a statistically significant impact on young men attending college, mid-GPA students enrolling in four-year colleges, and students’ retention of professional soft skills.
In Chicago, over 80 percent of Urban Alliance alumni enroll in college, compared to 60 percent of Chicago Public Schools graduates. However, in recent years, Urban Alliance has recognized the need to connect with youth earlier in their high school careers as part of a broader strategy to prevent disengagement from successful career or college pathways among low-income students in Chicago’s most vulnerable communities.
The strength of Urban Alliance’s model rests in its partnerships. In addition to Urban Alliance’s school partners on the South Side, the Pritzker Foundation and long-time Urban Alliance job partner Bank of America are supporting the OYJC launch as signature partners, deepening their commitment to creating more opportunity for underserved youth in the city.