As a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, I was extremely fortunate to be part of the International Achievement Summit in 2009. It was an eye-opening experience, a whirlwind of inspiration from leaders in and out of government, across the political spectrum, all focused on bettering the world in their own way. In particular, a comment from General Colin Powell has stuck in my mind: “You’re here because you succeeded in the first third in your life, the third where you prepare. But now you need to succeed in the second and third parts, the ones where you do the work and give back.”
With that inspiration, I’ve been excited to “do the work” on the ground with Juma Ventures. Juma is a national nonprofit that helps youth from low-income backgrounds obtain a college education. We provide academic support and employ our youth, selling concessions at sports stadiums. The best social program is a good job, and youth are much more likely to succeed in college if they have built the responsibility and drive that comes from employment. Finally, we provide matched savings accounts to ease the financial burden of college, and our youth save thousands of dollars by the time they enter college. The mix of academic support, employment, and asset building allows our students to get through college, not just into it. Last year, our high school graduation rate was 100 percent and college persistence rate was 85 percent — far above their peers.
As the head of our back office, I’ve driven growth in new cities and states. In the last seven months, we’ve opened operations at the New Orleans Superdome and Arena, as well as at Seattle’s SAFECO field, Key Arena and CenturyLink Field. My team administers over 1,200 savings accounts, and we plan to transform those services into another social enterprise that employs our college youth. During this expansion, we’ve reduced our average cost per youth, increased our percent of income due to sales, and passed over $1,000,000 to our youth through wages and savings in 2012 alone.
During my years as a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, I learned a great deal about using entrepreneurial models for social impact. I’m excited to say I think about these ideas daily, developing new and sustainable models to meet our social needs. I’m extremely grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds for the phenomenal experiences they offered me in Cambridge, Washington D.C., and New Orleans. Reading these updates has been humbling, and helps me recognize how fortunate we all are to have had these incredible experiences. In my personal life, I’ve also been wonderfully blessed. Soon after graduation in 2010, Emily and I got married; we are now blessed with a giggly, bright-eyed one-year-old girl, Hazel.
So next time you find yourself at a game for the Giants, A’s, Mariners, Saints, Chargers, 49ers, Raiders, Seahawks, or a whole bunch of others, buy some ice cream or coffee from Juma — and don’t forget to tip well!