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Year-Up Baltimore program thriving

Stacy M. Brown | 3/14/2014, 6 a.m.
The Year-Up Baltimore program has already been enjoying a banner year. Earlier this month, the successful program operated out of ...
Year-Up Students

The Year-Up Baltimore program has already been enjoying a banner year. Earlier this month, the successful program operated out of Baltimore City Community College (BCCC), held its fourth graduation ceremony.

Last month, the program was featured on the CBS News magazine show, “60 Minutes,” where individuals around the nation learned first hand that Year-Up isn’t just a handout for the underprivileged.

It’s a program that has teeth, one that helps low-income students who, through dedication and hard work, aspire to achieve a successful academic and working career.

“The program isn’t a charity, nor is it a handout,” Year-Up founder and entrepreneur Gerald Chertavian said in a statement posted on the program’s website.

Lameteria Hall, the executive director of Year-Up Baltimore’s professional training corps, says students who are accepted into the program after a rigorous application and interview process, must be willing to work hard, and must show up each day and on time. Year-Up is an intensive training program that lasts one year and it provides low-income young adults with a high school diploma or GED with a combination of hands-on skill development, college credits and corporate internships. Lateness and absences are unacceptable and could lead to removal.

The criteria is tough, only 80 students are accepted into the program each year from hundreds of applicants and many don’t qualify for graduation.

Students are required to follow a dress code, conduct themselves professionally at all times, sign a contract detailing policies and acceptable behavior, and pay close attention to instructors.

“This is good sense. Economic justice for young adults equals economic prosperity for U.S. businesses, and the nation at large,” Chertavian said.

“For Baltimore, 2014 is shaping up to be quite a year,” Hall said. “I was just reflecting and realized that this year we’ve already had two big highlights, we were featured on ‘60 Minutes,’ and our graduation was on February 3 and Rep. [Elijah] Cummings was our keynote speaker.”

The program pairs students with community colleges to provide them support and services in an effort to help them become successful. Year-Up’s goal is to help young people reach their potential through professional careers and higher education.

“The students work hard and they know that hard work is expected in order for them to succeed,” Hall said.

The program’s curriculum runs for one year and includes a stipend of $200 per month for the first six months and $600 per month afterwards, she said.

“It’s a motivation for them and, while they are in the program coming from school, all of their resources are covered including tuition, books and other fees,” Hall said.

The program was found in 2000 and came to Baltimore in 2010. Students are dual-enrolled with Year-Up’s community college partner where they have access to the library, tutoring resources, and other services offered by BCCC.

Some of the students are placed at financial firms and in other internships at Fortune 500 companies.

“Working at Morgan Stanley and being in the Year-Up program helped develop me and it help develop my career,” said Bobby Leak, a Year-Up Baltimore graduate.

Students are required to take 13 hours of college courses Mondays through Thursdays and spend a full session at Year-Up on Fridays.

“We teach the ABC’s, the basics in academics and business skills,” Hall said. “Attitude, behavior and communication, these are the skills that are needed to be employable. Our students are going into employers’ offices with skills much better than employees at those firms.”

Hall says that most students in the program either continue on to achieve a higher education or find employment within two months of graduation.

Participants in the BCCC program have interned at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System; Morgan Stanley; T. Rowe Price; Care first Blue Cross Blue Shield; and American Sugar Refining, Inc.

“We’re not asking for charitable donations, we’re asking corporations to invest,” Hall said. “We have students who really want to get in the program. They are the future of Baltimore, so it’s important that we have partners who are willing to invest in that future.”

For more information about the program or how to enroll, visit: www.yearup.org.