MLT Ascend

Coaching First-Generation College Students to Succeed in College and Beyond

In partnership with the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to MLT Ascend Chicago Group PhotoProgress initiative, we launched MLT Ascend, a college success and career readiness program in which MLT alumni – our Rising Leaders – volunteer to coach first-generation, low-income college students.

Want to be an Ascend Coach for 2019-2020?
Check out the coach commitments here.
Never coached with Ascend before? Sign Up!
Previously an Ascend coach? Re-enroll!

My MLT Ascend Coach helped me realize that I needed to operate in the manner which I felt most comfortable. He allowed me to find my own way and learn from my mistakes so that I could have a better understanding of what I wanted, could, and shouldn’t do.”


– Xavier H., Boston College

Watch Tre’s story to learn more about the impact of the Ascend program.

Closing a Critical Gap

More than 40 percent of students who move on to college do not graduate within six years.
This gap widens for first-generation college students, minorities, and those from low-income communities. To help close this gap, MLT Ascend matches MLT Rising Leader volunteers with first-generation college freshman to help the students navigate their college experiences and prepare for careers after college.  Ascend Scholars are eligible to participate in the program throughout their undergraduate years with the same or a different coach
. Check out our new  MLT Ascend Impact Report that documents the success of the first four years of the program. 


of MLT Ascend Scholars from the pilot freshman class matriculated to sophomore year


A True “Win / Win”   

Through MLT Ascend, our Rising Leaders – nearly half of whom are first-generation college graduates themselves – impact the lives of new college students in powerful ways. Our Rising Leader alumni network is composed of early-to-mid-career professionals who are passionate about giving back to their communities. MLT Ascend Coaches have benefitted from MLT’s professional coaching, and they are trained by MLT on how to coach their MLT Ascend Scholars. The scholars benefit from their coach’s experience and personalized guidance, encouragement, problem-solving support, and advice.  The MLT Ascend Coaches also expose their scholars to a wider world of professions that can lead to long-term employment and financial stability after college.

Coaches have had a significant impact on my career growth and professional development over the years. … I am grateful for the wonderful guides in my life over the years and want to be able to continue to give back–especially with a program that has done so much for my own development in such a short amount of time. Thank you, MLT!”


– Sylvia Z., alumna of Career Advancement Program, C/O 2015

In June 2018, we celebrated the college graduations of our first class of scholars. Check out the recap of the grad summit that was hosted by the CITI Foundation in New York City.

Becoming an MLT Ascend Scholar

MLT Ascend is currently open only to students nominated by an MLT non-profit community partners and universities (See list below). Community partners nominate students to participate in their senior year of high school or the beginning of their first year in college.

MLT Ascend Community Partners and Nominating Universities

MLT Ascend currently operates in the following four cities.
Contact us if you are interested in becoming a community partner.


  • Cristo Rey Network
  • Gary Comer Youth Center & College Prep
  • Kipp Through College

New York City

  • Cristo Rey Network
  • Eagle Academy for Young Men
  • East Harlem Tutorial Program
  • Kipp Through College

San Francisco

  • Aspire Public Schools
  • Cristo Rey Network
  • KIPP Through College
  • Level Playing Field Institute

Washington, D.C.

  • American University
  • Georgetown University
  • Howard University
  • Kipp Through College

My most helpful interactions with my MLT Ascend Coach were the times we discussed the social aspects of college, which I wasn’t so confident about. The encouragement from him really helped me see that I can be social and still get good grades.”


– Jordan V., Marymount Manhattan College

If You Are an MLT Rising Leader, Volunteer to Become an MLT Ascend Coach

MLT Ascend’s initial funding was provided by the Citi Foundation, as part of its 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. 

The Executive Leadership Council (ELC) is also providing growth funding for MLT Ascend through its Executive Leadership Foundation’s community impact initiative.

Y’all are amazing at MLT! It is a privilege to be part of such an amazing organization, and I am blessed to be considered a future leader of tomorrow.”


– Theresa A., University Of California-Santa Cruz

Meet the MLT Ascend Team

Theresa Atta, Director

Theresa Atta is a native of Washington, D.C. and has worked in the college access and non-profit arena for over 15 years.

Prior to joining MLT in October 2014, she worked for KIPP DC as Senior Program Manager for the national KIPP College Account program, a pilot savings initiative funded by the Citi Foundation. Early in her career, Theresa was instrumental in launching two college access organizations, as a founding board member and director of College Summit and as founding executive director of Collegiate Directions, Inc. (CDI).

Theresa also serves students and organizations in a volunteer capacity through service with organizations like Higher Achievement, the Black Student Fund, and DC College Success Foundation.

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.

Chris Alemán, Coach Manager

Chris is a native of Chicago, Illinois and has worked in higher education successfully managing and developing students and staff in coaching/advising roles for over 10 years.

Prior to joining MLT in May 2019, Chris served as an Assistant Director of Admissions for the Full-Time MBA program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He supported Kellogg’s diversity admissions goals while also enhancing the admissions’ mentorship program for newly admitted candidates through improved mentor matching based on shared interests/backgrounds, streamlined communications, enhanced engagement, and increased current student involvement.

In his spare time, he enjoys exploring Chicago’s neighborhoods, experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, and playing basketball in leagues around the city.  

Chris holds a BA in Psychology with a minor in Spanish and an MEd in Counseling with a concentration in College Student Development from DePaul University.

Read more about MLT Ascend on our Blog