Born to Be: the Deutsche Bank youth engagement programme
Access for all
Studies show that over the course of a working lifetime, a college graduate in the US can earn as much as
For students from low-income backgrounds, college completion can be a gateway to economic advancement and mobility. Yet every year, 400,000 low-income students qualify for college but don’t enrol. The complexities of the college admissions process, concerns over the cost of a college education and lack of information are among the barriers that students often face. Deutsche Bank is working in partnership with Strive for College, a non-profit organisation, to correct this inequality.
Schools may lack the resources to assist students with college applications. In public high schools in the US, there may be one guidance counsellor for up to 1,000 students: many of these schools lack a dedicated college counsellor. Strive for College bridges this gap by providing undergraduates from local colleges to mentor low-income high school students.
Mentor and student work together, one on one, for up to a year. As students step into an unfamiliar world, these relationships are a constant source of support and encouragement.
The mentors help students apply to colleges that offer the best fit academically and financially. Strive’s powerful technology tool, UStrive, enables students to make informed decisions about their futures by providing access to information such as rates of acceptance and graduation and the real cost of completing a four-year degree for students from similar backgrounds.
Achieving the dream
Strive helped Estefania, from Brooklyn, enrol in a four-year programme at Pratt Institute in New York, one of the most respected art colleges in the US.
Estefania saw college as a way to pursue her love of art and improve her future by gaining a degree, but felt uncertain about whether she could fulfil her aspiration. She says, “My parents are from Mexico and neither of them graduated high school. My mom has raised three kids on her own, working two jobs to make ends meet. I knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t know how to get there and I had no idea how I would pay for it.”
Strive for College matched Estefania with Mitzy as her mentor, who was a third-year art major at Pratt. The Pratt admissions process demonstrates the importance of guidance for aspiring college students, as Pratt applicants have to submit a portfolio of work as well as the usual personal statement. “I was thankful to have someone who could tell me what to do and help me select the right pieces,” says Estefania.
College admission is not always a smooth path. Having initially been rejected by Pratt, Estefania’s persistence was rewarded when she applied again and was accepted. “Strive really pushes you to achieve your dream. I was overwhelmed when I got the acceptance letter,” she says.
Strive for College also helped Estefania get financial assistance from a programme for economically and educationally disadvantaged students. Most of her tuition fees are covered, which means she can focus on studying without worrying about the cost of her education.
Estefania’s achievement has changed the aspirations of those around her. “Seeing me become a college student has given my younger brother the belief he can do it too. This feels like the beginning of a new tradition for our family,” she says. Studying at Pratt has convinced Estefania of her vocation. “My mom is concerned about what I’ll do after college but I tell her there are all kinds of jobs connected to art. I know this is the right path for me.”
Like many of the undergraduates who volunteer with Strive for College, Mitzy was motivated by the desire to use her experience to help others. A Dutch national, she came to the US as an international student and applied to art schools all over the world before choosing to study at Pratt.
“Having learnt my way around the US admissions system, I felt I could be useful to Estefania, especially with my knowledge of Pratt. Demonstrating your creative ability is the most difficult part of the application, so I spent a lot of time with Estefania on her portfolio,” she says.
Another priority was to build up Estefania’s confidence: “Living in Brooklyn, I see many young people from backgrounds similar to Estefania’s who lack hope. I could see that Estefania was a very talented and hard-working student, so I encouraged her to aim high. I told her, just try and see where it takes you – if you work hard, anything is possible.”
Now that they are fellow students at Pratt, Mitzy is helping Estefania to handle college life. She says, “Estefania is living at home but wants to be more independent, so I’ve talked to her about student housing available on campus. I’m also helping her with her choice of major. It’s great to see her doing so well.”
The target of this partnership is to help 1,000 students like Estefania get to college by 2016. The Bank is asking employees to help by funding the opening of new college chapters through donations it will match, by mentoring students and by advancing the conversation as advocates for Strive.
This initiative was announced at a Thought Leaders Forum event in New York hosted by Deutsche Bank North America CEO Jacques Brand to launch Born to Be in the Americas. The forum drew attention to demographic shifts in the US that make the issue of educational inequality an urgent priority, for the futures of young people and for society as a whole.
Deutsche Bank’s partnership with Strive for College launched Born to Be in the Americas.