CHARLOTTE, N.C. (April 23, 2014) – Prospects for climbing out of poverty are worse in Charlotte than in almost any other major city in America. The Charlotte area ranked third to last among the country’s 100 largest metro areas for upward mobility, according to researchers at Harvard University, University of California, Berkeley and the Treasury Department. One of the leading contributing factors? A lack of quality education.
Former Teach For America teacher Jimmy McQuilkin knows this all too well, and decided to devote his livelihood to driving change. Thus began UrbanPromise Charlotte— an organization dedicated to restoring Charlotte’s low-income communities by educating and developing students into Christian leaders.
“I saw firsthand how empowering education is. Last June, I left the security of a job I loved to pursue a new dream with UrbanPromise. Our mission is to equip Charlotte’s youth with the skills necessary for academic achievement, and to empower them as Christian leaders determined to restore their communities,” McQuilkin, who serves as executive director, stated.
UrbanPromise’s model is simple yet effective – they provide high school “StreetLeaders” with year-round employment, training, tutoring, college preparation, and mentoring to help them succeed both inside and outside of the program. In turn, the StreetLeaders then mentor their elementary and middle school comrades through the “AfterSchool” Program, which just launched last month. The goal of the AfterSchool Program is to provide opportunities for elementary and middle school students to improve their academic performance, develop necessary life skills, create positive relationships with caring adults, explore the arts, and nurture their faith.
“Our unique Streetleader program is what really sets UrbanPromise apart. We actually employ teenagers as mentors and role models for the younger students who attend our programs,” said McQuilkin. “Our formal mission is to reach a child, train a leader, and restore community. When teens realize the power they have to influence their community, their sense of purpose skyrockets.”
The proven success of the UrbanPromise model can be seen in the numbers. UrbanPromise officially launched 26 years ago in Camden, New Jersey, a city that sees only 50% of its high school students graduate. UrbanPromise Camden, however, has seen 100% of StreetLeader seniors graduate high school, and 90% attend college.
UrbanPromise Charlotte, in partnership with South Blvd. Community Partners, has rooted its initial efforts in southwest Charlotte’s South Blvd. corridor. According to a study by UNC Charlotte, southwest Charlotte is the second largest Latino residential district in Mecklenburg County, yet sizable portions of this district have “no access” to the services that have been identified as important to successful integration and acculturation for the Latino community.
UrbanPromise Charlotte, while just formally instituted in late 2013, is already establishing roots in the Queen City. In addition to the numerous community partners who have invested time, efforts, space and funds, Charlotte’s Social Venture Partners selected UrbanPromise Charlotte as a member of the SEED20 Class of 2014. McQuilkin and the UrbanPromise mission were then spotlighted as one of 10 Seed20 finalists at the third annual SEED20 competition in March. SEED20, an initiative designed to raise awareness and backing for “the region’s great ideas for building social value,” provides participants with training, feedback, and mentoring on how to succinctly and powerfully tell their story.
McQuilkin is certainly sharing the UrbanPromise story in a powerful way. Those in conversation with McQuilkin will quickly see and hear his passion for the cause. McQuilkin, who earned his Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Spanish at Wake Forest University, was selected as a regional recipient for the Teach For America Sue Lehmann Excellence in Teaching Award, received the First Year Teacher of the Year Award for high school teachers in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools’ West Learning Community, and received the All-Star in Achievement Award from the Charlotte Bobcats and Wells Fargo.
“Join the effort with UrbanPromise and together we can boldly proclaim to Charlotte’s youth that we believe they hold the promise of proclaiming a brighter future for our city.”
About UrbanPromise Charlotte
Reach a child, raise a leader, restore community.
UrbanPromise reaches younger children through afterschool and summer programs and raises high school leaders who are employed as mentors in these programs. Our ultimate goal is to restore community as a new generation of young leaders affects social, economic, and spiritual revitalization in their neighborhoods and the city of Charlotte. For more information, including a newsletter sign-up and details on volunteering, mentoring, or providing meals for StreetLeader trainings, please visit our newly-launched website at www.urbanpromisecharlotte.org. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on our blog.