Jeremiah Brown, Minneapolis, MN
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Educational achievement gaps lead to employment gaps. In Minneapolis, the 4-year high school graduation rate for students of color is 28% lower than for their white peers. Likewise, though people of color make up 40% of the city’s population, they hold only 17% of its jobs. Lack of employment only helps to further increase drop-out rates, which run higher in areas with high unemployment because students there are unable to see the connection between their education and future jobs, which, from their perspective, don’t exist.
STEP-UP Achieve is a youth training and employment program managed by AchieveMpls designed to break this vicious feedback loop. A true public-private partnership, the program is the third link in a summer employment pipeline for disadvantaged students in Minneapolis. In their first two summers, STEP-UP students are placed in highly structured work experiences and entry level jobs with local non-profits in order to gain workplace skills. In their third summer, returning students participate in STEP-UP Achieve, in which, having gained the skills that will help them meet professional workplace expectations, they are placed in more challenging, self-directed internships with local companies, educational institutions, and non-profits. Evaluation of the program has demonstrated increases in school attendance and performance on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment Math exam.