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Urban Alliance to expand work bridging opportunity gap for under-resourced youth with foundation support

WASHINGTON, DC – Urban Alliance, a national youth workforce development organization, is expanding work to bridge the opportunity gap by equipping youth from under-resourced communities with the workforce experience, social capital, and skills needed to achieve economic mobility with funding from the from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Urban Alliance will further develop their work to build a more equitable and diverse next-generation workforce by helping to scale its systems change and direct service work over the next two years with additional grant support from the foundation. Urban Alliance’s signature High School Internship Program connects high school students from under-resourced communities in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, and greater Washington, DC to upwardly-mobile pathways through paid professional internships; job skills training grounded in the principles of social and emotional learning; one-on-one mentoring; and college and career-planning guidance. Research has shown that early, paid work experience and well-designed workforce development is correlated with higher wages, faster job attainment, higher-quality jobs, and racial equity.

“There is no shortage of talent among youth from under-resourced communities, but there is a marked shortage in access to the opportunities and tools needed to thrive,” said Eshauna Smith, outgoing CEO of Urban Alliance. “The Gates Foundation shares our vision of a more equitable future for all youth and is an ideal partner to help us increase our impact, connecting even more driven young men and women to economically-mobile pathways.”

99% of Urban Alliance students are youth of color from low-income communities – those who have traditionally reduced access to the networks, skill development, and work experience needed for success in adulthood, leading to a growing racial wealth gap. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also disproportionately impacted youth from communities of color, with unemployment and disconnection rates far exceeding any other age group. 80% of Urban Alliance students contribute a portion of their paycheck toward household expenses, serving as vital sources of income for their families.

With 25 years of experience, Urban Alliance has a long track record of success. 100% of Urban Alliance students graduate from high school, 90% enroll in college, 80% persist to a second year, and 80% remain connected to a pathway toward economic self-sufficiency. An independent randomized controlled trial also found that completing the High School Internship Program has a statistically significant impact upon male college enrollment, mid-GPA student college attendance, and soft skills growth and retention.