MLT Blog

Ascending Higher: Reaching New Levels of College and Career Success

by Theresa O. Atta

MLT Ascend scholars and coaches at the 2018 Ascend Kickoff in Chicago


It’s back-to-school season, and we’re launching our fifth program year for MLT’s Ascend initiative, a college success and career readiness program. We’ve been in celebration mode all summer, starting with the Ascend Higher Graduation Summit hosted by the Citi Foundation in New York City. MLT Ascend graduates and rising seniors from our first two scholar cohorts gathered to celebrate their achievements, and to continue their preparations for professional lives beyond college. Program workshops during the summit focused on business communications skills, professional networking, and personal wellness. For highlights from this exciting event, check out our video recap below.

It is beyond gratifying to see students who started the MLT Ascend program in Fall 2014 truly ascending higher. We now have alumni! They are working in exciting corporate opportunities with MLT partners like Google, General Mills, and Eli Lilly. A number of our graduates have also entered the social sector, working with organizations like the National Women’s Law Center and the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools. One graduate even secured a position with the Boston Red Sox, where he will be working in video production. Several other students are matriculating to graduate school to pursue law and social work.

MLT Founder and CEO John Rice with 2018 Ascend Higher award recipients

 Some scholars from the Ascend’s first cohort are staying the course, with plans to graduate this December or in Spring 2019. MLT Ascend will continue on the path with those scholars. The road to a college degree is not always paved within four years. Circumstances vary, but that is why the work of programs like MLT Ascend and our community partners is critically important.

In April 2018, we released our first-ever MLT Ascend Impact Report, which details the progress made during our first four program years. We are proud that over 90% of Ascend scholars are persisting in college in the face of many common derailers to college success, which may include trouble with academic and social integration, financial difficulties, or self-care.

There are many exciting developments as we enter our fifth program year. We’ve welcomed new partnerships with organizations like Link Unlimited in Chicago and College Bound Initiative in New York City while deepening relationships with our current community partners. We will continue to evaluate new regions for future growth with plans to expand to two new cities by 2020. In the meantime, we’re focused on starting this school year strong after hosting successful kick-off events in Chicago, San Francisco, and New York City.

Our final kick-off event will be early October in DC. If you are interested in experiencing the Ascend program first-hand, I welcome you to join us for the day as a guest. Please reach out to us at for more details.

Watch this video to see more highlights from the MLT Ascend Graduation Summit 2018.

Theresa O. Atta is the Director of MLT Ascend. She is a native of Washington, D.C. and has worked in the college access and non-profit arena for more than 15 years. She holds a BA in Public Policy from Brown University, an MS in Organization Development from American University, and an Executive Certificate in Leadership Coaching from Georgetown University.