United Way Wins Major Citi Foundation Grant to Grow Youth Venture Program

BOSTON (August 26, 2015) – The Citi Foundation and America’s Promise Alliance today announced that United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley has been selected as a recipient of the Youth Opportunity Fund, a national $3 million initiative to support city-level, innovative and scalable programs connecting youth to opportunities that increase their employability and prepare them for lifelong success.

The Youth Opportunity Fund is part of the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress initiative, designed to support direct-service programs that empower urban youth, ages 16 to 24. A total of 12 grants will be awarded to nonprofit organizations in 10 of the largest U.S. cities: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Newark, St. Louis, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

In partnership with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley will receive a one-year grant totaling $250,000 to expand its Boston Youth Venture (BYV) program, enrolling 300 youth participants the civic engagement and entrepreneurship program for youth ages 16 to 20. BYV invests in teams of youth to develop, launch, manage and sustain community-benefitting projects, and provides them with ongoing training, mentoring and financial support to actualize their ideas. Working with industry leaders in the fields of marketing, technology, community development and finance, BYV provides experiential learning opportunities to youth that builds readiness for jobs and careers through communication and project management, leadership and teamwork.

“Providing training opportunities increases pipelines to employment and will boost Boston’s economy, now and in the future,” said Mayor Walsh. “We are excited to work with United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley – with support from America’s Promise Alliance and the Citi Foundation – to develop homegrown talent, improve the lives of some of our youngest and most vulnerable residents, and help strengthen our communities and our city.”

United Way has been steadily growing its Youth Venture program for the last 7 years, and last year more than 100 youth participated. This grant will allow United Way to triple the number of youth afforded the opportunity.


“This grant will allow us to connect hundreds more young people to 21st century careers,” said Michael K. Durkin, President at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “First-hand, real world job training and experience will have a significant impact on the lives of our young people, creating lasting change and contributing to the vitality of our city and its economy.”

Previous Boston Youth Venture projects have included:

  • “Bee the Change” – Dorchester teen Juaddy Melo wanted to educate his community about the declining honeybee population, and how that may affect prices of fresh produce in the future. He and his team talked to kids about bees, watched the Bee Movie, and planted bee-friendly community gardens filled with flowers and vegetables. The produce is then sold in the community to raise funds to build more gardens.
  • “Go Green Not Gangs” – A group of students from Jamaica Plain started a community gardening program to help engage other youth in a positive community activity. They then sold the fresh produce in their community, providing low-cost healthy food in a food desert neighborhood.
  •  “In the Eyes of an Immigrant Child” – This group compiled stories from first generation immigrants about how they came to the US and their acclimation to the American culture.  The stories were put together in a book and sold to raise money to provide school supplies to a school in rural Nicaragua.

The Fund supports programs that address youth unemployment through partnerships with municipal governments and collaborations across industries that are core to the economies of the Pathways to Progress cities, including IT, tech, healthcare, the service industry and environmental sustainability. Grantees will collaborate and share best practices on the most effective ways to expand and connect youth to economic opportunity in their communities.

“The future competitiveness of America’s cities hinges on the positive economic outcomes of our young people,” said Brandee McHale, President of the Citi Foundation. “We launched the Youth Opportunity Fund to support the innovative work of community partners who are helping low-income youth create the on-ramps that will lead towards career success.”

“We are dealing with the mixed reality of our nation’s high school graduation numbers increasing at unprecedented rates, while an estimated 5.6 million young people are not in school or employed,” said John Gomperts, president & CEO of America’s Promise. “The dozen Youth Opportunity Fund grantees are vital to connecting thousands of young people to opportunities that boost their ability to compete in today’s economy.”

In its first year, nearly 25,000 young people have been impacted by the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress initiative, a three-year, $50 million commitment to give 100,000 low-income youth in the U.S. the opportunity to develop the workplace skills and leadership experience necessary to compete in a 21st century economy. The initiative includes national organizations such as the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, Points of Light, AmeriCorps, Management Leadership for Tomorrow, iMentor and the Cities for Financial Empowerment.

To learn more about the Youth Opportunity Fund and see a full list of grantees visit: www.americaspromise.org/youthopportunityfund.


About United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley

United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley harnesses the power of individuals, nonprofits, businesses and government to create change that lasts. We focus on the three core building blocks of a strong, vibrant community: ensuring that all families have the resources and opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty, preparing children to enter school ready to learn and succeed, and inspiring and supporting youth to stay in school and realize positive options for the future.

About America’s Promise Alliance

America’s Promise Alliance leads an alliance of organizations, communities and individuals dedicated to making the promise of America real for every child. As its signature effort, the GradNation campaign mobilizes Americans to increase the on-time high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020 and prepare young people for postsecondary enrollment and the 21st century workforce. For more information, visit www.americaspromise.org.

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 www.citifoundation.com.