News Story

MLT Ascend Scholars Show Noteworthy College Persistence Success Lifts Individuals and Communities


New York, NY. June 1, 2018 — College access and persistence are key levers for attaining economic security for individuals, their families, and their communities. Four years ago, Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) launched the Ascend initiative, a college success and career readiness program for first-generation, low-income college students. Ascend was co-created with the Citi Foundation as a key component of its Pathways to Progress initiative and has shown promising results. To date, the Foundation has invested over $3.5 million in the program. 

The first cohort of Ascend scholars is graduating from college this year. Each student has had access to individualized coaching and a detailed framework to help them navigate the college experience towards success. In this milestone year for the program, success metrics show 90 percent of all Ascend scholars are on track to earn a Bachelor’s degree within 4-6 years. 

“Today’s MLT Ascend graduation is an inspiring testament to the hard work of these Youth Scholars and ‎the dedicated mentors who stood by them to help them get through college—many the first in their family,” said Brandee McHale, President of the Citi Foundation. “We are proud to work with MLT as part of Pathways to Progress, to help cultivate the next generation of leaders across sectors.” 

One of the Ascend initiative’s unique aspects is matching scholars with African American and Latino coaches with whom they can identify. Scholars report their Ascend coaches are better able to relate to their experiences and to coach them on the hard and soft skills needed to advance in the classroom and the workplace. 

Before MLT Ascend, it was easy to get overwhelmed. I felt I didn’t have enough experience, that I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to go after opportunities,” said Marifer Zacarias. “My coach helped me realize all I have to offer and sharpened my professional skills. She taught me to not be afraid to go after opportunities,” she added.  After graduation, Zacarias will be working as a Bilingual Program Assistant for the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C.

Ascend Scholars are nominated to participate by community partners and universities. Students are provided scaffolding and roadmap that helps them maximize their college experience. It keeps them on track to graduate and puts them on a path toward a fulfilling career. “We at MLT know how important it is for everyone to have access to the confidence-building relationships, the coaching, and the playbook for success,” said Theresa Atta, Director of MLT Ascend. “We are thrilled to see how this strategy has helped the vast majority of our Ascend scholars persist and thrive in college.”

The inaugural cohort of Ascend Scholars will be recognized at the Ascend Higher Graduation Summit hosted by the Citi Foundation on Friday, June 1, 2018.

For more information about the Ascend initiative or to arrange for an interview, please contact us at or Citi’s Contact at  


About the Citi Foundation
The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world. We invest in efforts that increase financial inclusion, catalyze job opportunities for youth, and reimagine approaches to building economically vibrant cities. The Citi Foundation’s “More than Philanthropy” approach leverages the enormous expertise of Citi and its people to fulfill our mission and drive thought leadership and innovation. For more information, visit 

About Management Leadership for Tomorrow
MLT equips and emboldens talented Black, Latinx, and Native American men and women to realize their full potentialto make their mark and make an impact.  MLT has given rise to a powerful and vibrant community of peers and mentorsa network of champions who are committed to each other’s success and to transforming their organizations and communities throughout the nation and world.

Community Partner Organizations
MLT Ascend scholars are nominated by the following organizations in Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

  • American University
  • Aspire Public Schools
  • College Bound Initiative
  • College Track
  • Cristo Rey Network
  • Eagle Academy for Young Men
  • East Harlem Tutorial Program
  • Gary Comer College Prep
  • Georgetown University
  • Howard University
  • KIPP Through College
  • Level Playing Field Institute
  • LINK Unlimited Scholars Program