Although there’s no secret recipe for success, access to resources like mentors, professional networks and internships can help young people as they navigate the transition from school into the workforce. For over a decade JPMorgan Chase’s flagship college and career readiness program, The Fellowship Initiative (TFI) has helped young men of color across the country bridge the gap and achieve academic and professional success. To date, the program has helped over 750 young men of color benefit from community, mentorship, leadership and experiential opportunities, equipping them to achieve academic and professional success.
With a new school year on the horizon, and a whole new set of students set to begin the next chapter of their education journey, TFI New York Executive Sponsor Mike Brown, Managing Director, Corporate and Investment Bank, sat down with graduate Elijah Grace to discuss the impact of TFI and more on his journey to college.
Q: Congratulations on graduation! What are some of the experiences you’ve had in TFI that helped you successfully prepare for and apply to colleges and life after high school?
TFI helped me in a plethora of ways. Specifically, throughout the application process, TFI connected me with resources like a writing coach that helped me with my personal statement and essays. They also helped me think about and research different schools and the programs they offer, tuition, classes and courses. It was an entire year of prep work, and it all helped set me up for success during the application process.
The program helped prepare me for college from the very first day. We spent a lot of time on college readiness, time management and discussing the realities of college. But the biggest take away for me: you have an option to choose what you want to do, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to make the right decision. TFI reinforced the idea of making the right decisions and owning what you do.
Q: What motivated you to apply to TFI?
TFI has recruited students from my school for years and I’d heard about the impact the program had on the young men who participated in the past. I’d had teachers and counselors share about the transformation that Fellows had – their mentality changed, their grades improved, and they became true leaders in our school. They talked a lot about support, community and brotherhood – all things that appealed to me. Something instilled in me from a young age has been a desire to be successful. That’s not always something others in school have been focused on which has at times made me feel alone. When I joined TFI, I found like-minded people with the same success mentality. TFI really helped me find a true support network.
Q: Are there things you learned through TFI that you will take with you to college and beyond?
Back in sophomore year I thought college was just more school and debt and I didn’t want to attend. Now I know that that’s not the truth. I know that college is more than that; it’s an amazing opportunity to experience new things, people, and to discover yourself. TFI helped me find a new perspective, informed me about the opportunities that could be available to me, and prepared me to make the most of those opportunities. It also showed me about the power of community and knowing that there are people who want to see you succeed and are willing to help you if you’re willing to put the work in. TFI is about showing up. I learned better time management skills, which is something that I know will be helpful in college. They taught us ‘to be early is on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is unacceptable.’ I’ll take that with me, too.
When I was looking for colleges, I didn’t immediately think about applying to an HBCU. But when I came across Morehouse College, something that stuck out to me was the brotherhood aspect. It was something that drew me to TFI, kept me there, and ultimately helped me decide where to head for college. That’s been really important to me. I’m excited to begin this next chapter in my life at Morehouse College this fall.
When we invest in our young people, we’re making an investment in our futures, and the future of our communities. TFI is a part of JPMorgan Chase’s broader commitment to driving a more inclusive economy. In addition to New York, the program is offered to high school students in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Houston and Washington, D.C. Since launching in 2010, TFI has provided young men of color with resources, mentorship and a community of supporters who are invested in the students and their success. With over 95% of TFI Fellows pursuing college or post-secondary pathways, the program has opened doors to opportunities for more young people. To learn more about TFI and JPMorgan Chase’s efforts to create a more inclusive economy, click here.