YearUp: Working to bridge the opportunity divide in communities of color across the U.S.

Black History Month

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – When Devon Prince was 20-years-old, a career in tech was far from what he ever envisioned for his life.

“I didn’t even know what that meant, working in tech… like ‘what does it mean?’ I am a kid from Ridgecrest, California. We didn’t have tech, we didn’t have big cities, we don’t have those conversations,” Prince said.

Prince said he was a shy, introverted kid who learned about the nonprofit Year Up, whose mission is to close the opportunity divide, from his uncle who was an educator in the Bay Area.

“He’s like, you can have the opportunity to work at companies like Facebook, Twitter, and all these big tech companies…. even then it was still a blur, like ‘what do you mean work at these companies’?” Prince said.

So he took a leap of faith and enrolled in Year Up, and after completing the year-long program full of learning the technical skills he needed to be successful and pairing him with a full-time internship and mentor, he started his dream job.

He currently works at Salesforce, where he manages a team of engineers.

“Coming up to a city like Oakland, it’s already a culture shock for me seeing people that look like me, and then seeing my people don’t even have opportunity even in these big cities, it was a no brainer somebody is going to have to represent, and show people like me , that look like me, that come from places like me, that there are opportunities,” Prince said.

Year Up data shows today over 5 million young adults in the United States are cut off from any real path to a stable career, despite having the talent and drive to achieve more.

The program focuses primarily on young men and women from underserved communities.

They are trained and connected to several big tech giants in the Bay Area, including Facebook, Twitter, and countless others.

“We know that our young black men and women, don’t have access to the networks, that allow them to start off their careers, in a way that is important,” said Antoine Andrews, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer for Year Up.

Andrews knows first-hand the challenges Black students face when it comes to entering the workforce.

“We are challenging organizations in order to close that opportunity divide. There are a lot of young people who don’t have a college degree but are phenomenal and can really drive and be excellent employees,” Andrews said.

“For organizations… so if you find a way to eliminate some of those barriers which is requiring a BA, you can close that opportunity divide and increase your diversity tremendously,” he added.

For Prince and the thousands of other students who have gone through the program, it’s a huge step in closing that divide.

“My whole goal is to really take people from my community and showcase that we are doing well out here and you can be a part of what we got going on,” Prince said.

Year Up says they have served over 29,000 students since their inception in 2000.

To learn more about Year Up, you can visit YearUp.org.

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