Austin Impact Accelerator 2019

Austin Impact Accelerator 2019

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here on Medium. I’ve been busy living life, scheming on how to stay whole, writing proposals and doing due diligence for E4 Youth, the organization I founded over a decade ago. One of those proposals was for a City of Austin Innovation Grant and the Austin Impact Accelerator.

Fortunately, we were accepted into the program and as part of the latest cohort, E4 Youth is one of 12 ventures tackling affordability and workforce development (E4 Youth’s focus) in Austin, TX. As a requirement of the program, I’ll be making regular updates here on our progress over the next 5 months.

So, what is E4 Youth doing about workforce diversity?

E4 Youth Digital Docents at Capital Factory during SXSW 2019

E4 Youth is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that leverages the arts, sciences and technology to bridge the gap into the creative economy for youth of color ages 16 — 22. We currently provide 200+ students at 9 high schools in Austin, Manor and Pflugerville, TX with opportunities to:

  1. Identify their interests
  2. Leverage those interests to build a digital portfolio that can aid in college and career opportunities
  3. Provide career mapping, job shadow, internship and employment opportunities where those interests can flourish

We do this through an ecosystem building approach in which we work directly with teachers serving youth of color to match them with trained Young Creative Leaders (YCL) that run their enrichment clubs. YCLs use our standards aligned Employability Curriculum to build relationships with students and help them build portfolios. Students with the most outstanding portfolios earn access to industry events, laptops, software and each summer paid internships working for real clients like Whataburger and Lyft.

What is E4 Youth doing as part of the accelerator?

Just over a year ago, we came to the realization that the quality of our high school programs is wholly reliant on the quality of Young Creative Leaders that we recruit and train to lead our enrichment clubs. If we are to sustain and grow over the long term, we have to find ways to help them build capacity.

How can they help students build strong digital portfolios when they may not even have a portfolio of their own? As people of color themselves, they also face the same challenges as our high school students. They are 20 — 30% less likely to graduate from college than their white and Asian counterparts and often have to work 20+ hours a week in fast food or retail just to afford to stay in school.

When you add in the present political climate, it’s a daunting task.

So, we started making a larger investment in them. Over the past year, we’ve created a pool of these Young Creative Leaders that has grown from 10–20+. Those leading clubs, receive $15/hr. The others receive stipends and opportunities to build their skills through weekly sessions with our staff and industry professionals.

The results have been promising. By design, our more senior Young Creative Leaders are being picked for full time employment opportunities with companies like Go Daddy and Tableau. Our more junior members of the cohort now have digital portfolios of their own and we’re excited about having them start to lead clubs of their own in the coming year.

We’re here to take it to the next level

E4 Youth Digital Docents at Capital Factory during SXSW 2019

With the impending launch of the Creative Leadership Academy (more details soon), E4 Youth is doubling down on our investment . The CLA will grow our pool of Young Creative Leaders from 20 to 40+ in the coming year. Participants not leading clubs will help shape our newest venture — Digital Docent.

Digital Docents work with seasoned professionals to leverage audio, video and immersive media (VR, AR and XR) tools to collect and curate oral histories throughout East Austin neighborhoods. Our goal is to build this into a self sustaining model for creative workforce development that can be implemented in any city across the globe.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing insights about the process and lessons learned. So, feel free to stop on through and if you find this stuff useful, share.

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