MLT Blog

MLT ASCEND Kicks Off Year Two

By: Theresa Atta, Associate Director, MLT Ascend

“If you want to be the greatest, you must be the servant of the rest…”

As Washington, DC (home of MLT headquarters) prepared for an historic Papal visit this week, we were reminded of this teaching of Pope Francis. At MLT, we know that those who aspire to great heights in the corporate world or social sector do well to remember that service to others is a key ingredient for becoming a stellar leader. That spirit contributed to the launch last year of  MLT Ascend – a college persistence and career readiness program where MLT alumni serve as volunteer coaches to first- and second-year college students from low-income communities. Now in its second year,  MLT Ascend will nearly double in size to serve 300 college freshman and sophomores this year, nominated by community partners in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

The MLT Ascend program team traveled practically every weekend in August to facilitate three of the first four regional kick-offs. These day-long events are comprised of coach training sessions, scholar orientation, and activities that foster fun interaction between the coaches and scholars. As one scholar said, there was “never a dull moment!”

The coach training sessions delved into topics like active listening, rapport building and crisis management.   Scholars also were introduced to the MLT Ascend Scholar Roadmap – a customizable action plan of specific tasks to keep students on course to graduate through each year of the college experience.

While the 6-year college graduation rate for the general population hovers at about 60% , according to the National Center for Education Statistics, first-generation, low-income students are six times less likely to earn a degree. MLT Ascend is working  to turn that tide by ensuring that more students not only complete college, but graduate with the coaching, skills, and network to launch fulfilling professional careers. To achieve this goal, scholars are matched with MLT Ascend Coaches, alumni of MLT’s signature programs who are committed to paying forward what they have gained in their educational and professional careers. Who better to work with these students than MLT alumni, many whom themselves were the first in their families to graduate from college?
MLT Ascend Coach Marco De La Torre understands this journey well:

Coming from a single-parent, first-generation, lower-income household, the odds of me getting to college were slim. However, thanks to the significant help I received from mentors throughout my life, I was able to succeed in my goal of attending college.

Marco not only earned a degree in Economics from Claremont McKenna College, he’s now pursuing his MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management while dedicating time to coaching his MLT Ascend Scholar, Alec. By taking the time to support his scholar, the same way others helped him along the way, Marco and Alec are reaping the rewards of MLT Ascend and learning the value of true servant leadership.

MLT Ascend is funded by generous support from the Citi Foundation and Executive Leadership Foundation.