MLT Blog

Equal Measure Issue Brief – “The Citi Foundation Pathways to Progress: Setting the Stage for Impact”

By: Avril Langevine

In 2014, the Citi Foundation provided initial funding to launch MLT Ascend, which harnesses the collective power of MLT Rising Leaders as coaches or mentors to help ensure that low-income, first-generation college students graduate and do so prepared for professional careers that lead to long-term employment and financial stability.

The funding for MLT Ascend is part of the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress initiative, a three-year, $50 million commitment to connect 100,000 low-income youth to economic opportunities through mentoring, civic engagement, summer employment and entrepreneurship training.

Equal Measure today published an issue brief evaluating the success of the Pathways to Progress initiative in its first year: “The Citi Foundation Pathways to Progress: Setting the Stage for Impact.”

“The Citi Foundation has invested in five organizations launching programs under four categories: Entrepreneurship, Service/Leadership, Mentorship, and Summer Jobs.  MLT received $1.2 million at the 10th Anniversary Celebration last year to launch MLT Ascend under the mentorship umbrella. This portfolio evaluation issue brief by Equal Measure is the first in a three-year series describing the Pathways to Progress investment strategy, the impact of the programs in year one, and how the organizations will improve to make further progress in years two and three.”

Part of Equal Measure’s report is dedicated to how Pathways to Progress grantees are documenting best practices that will inform program escalation and development moving forward:

“All five grantees also are testing new approaches and augmentations to programming, including adding online components, developing new curricula, and designing highly structured volunteer engagement initiatives with coaches and mentors. … MLT has developed the MLT Ascend Scholar Roadmap, identifying key success factors at critical stages of the undergraduate years to assist coaches guiding students towards college graduation.”

The issue brief also notes how MLT Ascend is updating the program before the second year launch in order to provide coaches with more of the training and resources they need to better serve scholars:

“These alterations include curriculum revisions, additional training and support for mentors and coaches, and strategies for taking advantage of intervention opportunities with the youth. For instance, MLT identified a need for more consistent training of, and support to, its coaches who are located across the country. The MLT Ascend Coach Resource Center was developed as an online hub for curriculum updates, monthly coach guides, and a host of academic, financial aid, and career development resources available at nearly 100 college campuses. The online resource center also includes a coach and scholar directory to facilitate connection building and shared learning.”

Not only did the Citi Foundation make a significant financial investment to help launch MLT Ascend, the foundation has encouraged Citi employees who are MLT Alumni to volunteer as coaches. As Richard Young — an MLT Ascend Program coach who is an associate in investment banking at Citi and an MLT Career Prep program alumnus — said during the Opportunity Nation Summit in February 2015:

“The Foundation has afforded great opportunities to combine its philanthropic efforts with employee engagement because its leadership knows that through mentorship, low-income and first-generation students in the United States can successfully earn a college degree. Understanding that critical need is why I mentor others informally and also why I became an MLT coach for first-generation college students in the MLT Ascend College Program.”

MLT is proud to be a part of the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress initiative. Through the launch and first program year of MLT Ascend, MLT and the Citi Foundation are helping low-income urban youth in the U.S. develop the workplace and leadership skills necessary to compete in today’s economy.