Blog Entry Capacity Building

July 2016 SBV Spotlight: Jerelyn Rodriguez, Co-Founder/CEO of The Knowledge House

This month, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement is excited to bring you SBV Spotlight, a new monthly communication that shines a light on the skills-based volunteer program that CBMA has developed with JPMorgan Chase. SBV Spotlight will shine on a light on the CBMA members in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago that have received valuable professional-level pro bono capacity-building services from JPMorgan Chase employees.  Our inaugural SBV Spotlight profiles The Knowledge House and Co-Founder and CEO, Jerelyn Rodriguez.

Jerelyn Rodriguez co-founded The Knowledge House (TKH) in 2014 when she returned to her community in the Bronx after a career in education reform. The Knowledge House (TKH) is a nonprofit social enterprise with the bold mission to match1,500 young people from low income communities with middle skill tech jobs in the next 5 years. Jerelyn wants to make sure that the young people of her community in the Bronx are not left out of the innovation economy. Currently, 36 percent of the 16 to 24 year olds in the South Bronx are disconnected from school and work. By creating local technology programs, both in and outside of the classroom, The Knowledge House offers alternative pathways for disconnected young adults, while preventing youth disconnection for high school students.

When Jerelyn learned of the CBMA skills-based volunteer program and the opportunity to receive pro bono services from JPMorgan employees, she signed up immediately. After participating in the program for five months, Jerelyn provided CBMA with valuable feedback based on her experience with the program.

What motivated you to participate in the skills-based volunteer program?

JR: My team is tiny and our operation is lean. With only two full-time staff and a limited budget we've reached over 350 youth in tech programs. Our alumni have already gotten jobs making $35/hour and we've secured our first employer who's committed to hiring from our pipeline. We've mobilized a nascent tech community in the Bronx and have been covered in the press. This year I was honored as a Forbes 30 Under 30 in education. We've done a lot with very little, but there is still so much to do. 

Because of our ambitious mission to match 1,500 young people with tech jobs, we need all the help we can get. We are so thankful of the CBMA and JPMorgan Chase partnership. In the past five months we've engaged with 5 JPMC employees who've provided pro bono services like financial projections, PR consultation, data analysis and strategy. Access to these experts and utilizing their skills has helped us solidify our vision and armed us with high quality tools to take our work to the next level. These engagements have also helped us save more than $30,000. This is huge for a tiny organization like mine. 

Do you foresee any long-term benefits from the skills-based volunteer program?

JR: These engagements through the skills-based volunteer program have led to long-term relationships. I now have a mentor in a Chase analyst working in Texas, who is from the Bronx and was drawn to our work because she also wants to see us uplift our neighborhood. An associate at the Midwest branch of Global Philanthropies at Chase has not only provided me with feedback on our pitch deck, but she's also making sure that all of her colleagues know about us. She recently secured two tickets for us to attend an IT Diversity Symposium at Google last month. 

Thanks to the program, I've been able to get the help I need and build an online community of corporate volunteers who now know about TKH, believe in me, and open doors for us. This additional capacity has been game changing and I've never been more confident that we'll accelerate our impact in the Bronx.  

CBMA would like to thank our members for reading this first installment of SBV spotlight. We look forward to providing you with more stories on how this fantastic program is adding value to our members. So, please stay tuned.

Important Program Announcement: If you are a CBMA member in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, there still an opportunity to participate in the CBMA skills-based volunteer program. Contact Claude Aska at caska@blackmaleachievement.org for information on how to register for the program

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