Aug 12, 2019
Eshauna Smith knows first-hand what it takes to break through barriers and achieve success. The eldest child in a family struggling with poverty, she forged a different future. This experience informs her leadership of Urban Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to helping young people from challenging backgrounds attain economic success. As Eshauna learned, having adults stand up for her was change making. Their support, from facilitating Girl Scout camp applications, to summer jobs and internships, propelled her through degrees from UC Berkeley and UT Austin. Now Eshauna is persuading a new set of adults, in high schools and corporations, to stand up for the young people Urban Alliance serves. She does this by engaging them in a model that prepares high school students for higher education and successful employment. It benefits undervalued students and advances racial and social justice.
Urban Alliance partners with high schools to place motivated seniors into 9-month paid internships with corporations seeking good employees. Front line staff provide students with soft skills training and are available 24 hours a day to corporate supervisors. The model is working. Urban Alliance is celebrating the graduation of 500 high school seniors from these internships. The program is expanding the pipeline of students ready and able to advance to college, technical training or whatever trajectory they choose. And the model is scaling from DC to Baltimore, Northern Virginia, Chicago and most recently, Detroit. Companies, including Hilton, Marriott, Quicken Loans, and Bank of America are all in, not as charity but as believers in the bottom line. Stay tuned; there is definitely more to come.