Citi Foundation Bets Big on Mentoring for At-Risk Youth

Eariler this year, the Citi Foundation announced a $50 million, three-year initiative called Pathways to Progress, with the goal of providing entrepreneurship training, civic engagement opportunities, and summer employment to 100,000 low-income youth. 

The initial programs that the Citi Foundation decided to support as part of this initiative include ServiceWorks, which is focused on youth volunteerism; Summer Jobs Connect, which not only links youth in five major metropolitan areas with summer employment, but includes a finanicial education program, and access to financial products; and Make Your Job, which was rolled out in ten cities, and helps young people develop the skills necessary to become a successful entrepreneur. 

Now, the Citi Foundation has added mentoring to that list, with the announcement of two grants totalling $2.1 million to iMentor and Management Leadership for Tomorrow, both organizations that connect promising low-income students with professionals in their desired careers. These mentors provide long-term guidance on applying to and financing college, and one-on-one career planning. The $1 million grant to iMentor makes the Citi Foundation its largest supporter, and will help the organization reach 20,000 mentoring pairs nationwide over the next five years.

Citi's commitment to youth stretches beyond the U.S. as well. In 2013 alone, their Youth Economic Opportunities program distributed more than $7 million abroad. So whether you're focused on educational and vocational training for youth in South L.A. or South Africa, there is an opportunity here to get support from the Citi Foundation.

A few weeks ago, we commented on the bigger picture behind Citi's Pathways to Progress initiative, which shares some similarities with an even bigger effort by JP Morgan Chase to bolster job skills. We wrote that these banks "hire huge numbers of young people, often of color, to staff their giant operations, from working the teller windows to handling back office responsibilities. . . So when young people don't make it out of high school, or emerge with poor work skills and habits, these banks pay a direct price."

That's the context for understanding what the Citi Foundation is doing with its $50 million Pathways to Progress initiative, along with this more specific funding on mentoring. 

Figuring out who to talk to or how to submit a query or an application can be tricky, as not much information is available on the foundation's website. So while we follow up with the Citi Foundation to find out what the best avenues are for pursuing a grant, right now your best bet is to try to connect with Rosemary Byrnes, who is Senior Program Officer for U.S. Youth Economic Opportunities.byrnesr@citi.com