In 2008, the National Urban League founded a program known as “Project Ready,” which prepares African Americans and other historically underserved youth in grades 6 -12 for college and careers. The National Urban League executes this program through our network of over 90 affiliates in 35 states. The Project Ready program currently enrolls 2,000 students providing academic enrichment and mentorship opportunities. We base the program on three models:

  • The Magnet Model that supports students at a site outside of school
  • The School-Based Model that supports students at school after school hours
  • The Expanded Day or year Model, which features additional learning and development time added to the school day

Our program features:

  • Impactful local and national partnership
  • Innovative content
  • Professional development
  • Targeted events, activities, and programs that are unique to the Urban League Movement

The program also integrates academic preparation for college with the development of life skills and social, global, and cultural awareness.

Project Ready started as a means to combat systemic racial and economic disparities and close the gaps in our education systems. The fact that 73% of Project Ready students state that they attend school more often because they participate in the program is clear evidence of the program’s success.

Many participants go on to receive scholarships and acceptance into HBCUs and other top universities. Project Ready is a proven delivery model that dramatically shifts the trajectory of success for our leaders of tomorrow.

The Covid-19 pandemic, however, has forced our academic institutions to change how they teach our youth and train them to be the leaders of tomorrow. At present, we do not know the full impact that the Covid-19 pandemic will have on our students, but some early reports show significant cause for concern. Last year economists at Brown University and Harvard University found that, in 2020, real student progress in online math-related coursework fell across all communities. Still, the progress rate fell 74.8% in lower-income communities compared with a 36.1% fall in higher-income ZIP codes. These figures show how the lack of resources and connectivity has significant negative impacts on students in underserved communities. This negative impact affects more than just the students. If we do nothing to change these outcomes, the business community will suffer the loss of the talent needed to ensure our economy continues to thrive.

That is why, now more than ever, programs like Project Ready are critical in ensuring our youth’s college and career success. Project Ready and other similar programs need support from charities, foundations, and other like-minded institutions and people. The business community should also invest in these programs to both benefits the youth and ensure that these students have the training and the skills that the business community will need when these students are ready to join the workforce.

While we may not know when the Covid-19 pandemic will end, we do know that we must do the work now to ensure that this unprecedented era does not further hamper the development of our youth or leave our economy in ruins.

At the Los Angeles Urban League, we are committed alongside the National Urban League to the 2025 Empowerment Goal in which ‘Every American child is ready for college, work, and life.’ We are here to support and uplift our students and their families so that no child is left behind or is unable to achieve his or her well-deserved dreams of success.