America Needs You

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America Needs You: Connecting Ambition with Opportunity

New York, États UnisNew York City, États Unis
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

America Needs You (ANY) fights for economic mobility for ambitious, low-income college students. We do this by providing intensive career development, mentorship, and professional networks to enable students to realize their academic and career aspirations.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if ambitious young people could overcome institutional barriers to economic mobility and achieve their academic and professional potential?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

At a time when the stakes of college completion are particularly high, 60% of low-income college students and 89% of first-generation students do not complete their degrees (NPSAS). First-generation college students often lack role models to encourage them to persist in their academics or professional ambitions. While college access programs have grown, there is little support for students at risk of dropping out while they are in college.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

ANY's Fellows Program is a highly-selective program for low-income, first-generation college students. The program is designed to foster continuous college enrollment and help secure internships and job offers upon graduation from four-year institutions, ultimately leading to meaningful employment and economic mobility. ANY combines many proven tactics of support, such as creating a community to combat feelings of isolation, providing career development training to fill gaps in knowledge, and matching students with mentors who become their champions. ANY’s target of accepting more community college students and facilitating their transfer to four-year schools is a crucial component allowing students to realize their full potential.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

As the daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants, Dipabali—a Fellow majoring in Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University—used her father's struggles as motivation to attain a college education. With the help of ANY, Dipabali transferred from Baruch to Cornell. Since becoming a Fellow in ANY's New York program, Dipabali has interned with the Global Service Learning Program in India, the United Nations in Geneva, and UBS. "My two year experience in the [Fellowship] has been incredible. As a first-generation college student, I found it difficult to succeed without guidance," said Dipabali. "If it weren't for my Mentor Coach, Chris Polanco, I probably would not have seized the opportunities that I am immensely grateful for today."

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Fellows have demonstrated a strong commitment to the program, resulting in high rates of success during and after their time in the program. Our short- and medium-term outcomes include the following statistics: Fellows who began the program in 2012 in New York have an internship placement rate of 94% compared to 27% nationally; 100% have graduated or are on track to graduate from college compared to 11% of first-generation students nationally; and, 100% who began at community colleges have transferred to 4-year schools. In our inaugural New York class, 100% percent of Fellows graduated college; 98% are employed, interning, or in graduate school; and, 91% are working in their industry of choice. In a survey of summer internship employers, 95% agreed that their Fellow added significant value, and 85% said they would hire their Fellow if a position were available.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

In January 2014, we launched our national organization - America Needs You (ANY). ANY builds on the momentum of the successful New York and New Jersey programs and expands it to under-resourced students nationwide. With strong data to support program success with first-generation, low-income students, we are confident we can address the needs of students and promote economic mobility nationwide. We are exploring expansion sites based on need, impact and resources. Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington D.C./Baltimore are under consideration and we expect to launch a new site in 2015.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

ANY partners with nonprofit organizations, public universities, and high schools that focus on college access for under-served youth, especially the City University of New York system. ANY is also fortunate to count many private foundations as partners—the Heckscher Foundation for Children, the Pinkerton Foundation, and the Ford Foundation, among others—as well as many companies, including Goldman Sachs and Macy's.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

College access programs can end too soon. ANY is one of the only organizations focused on supporting low-income, first-generation students while they attend college and particularly through the transition from community colleges to four-year schools. ANY provides holistic, intensive, and individually-tailored support for students, facilitating not just access but also success in college and career. ANY’s unique mentor model also harnesses the strength and philanthropic drive of young professionals who want to leverage their skills to have a direct, sustainable impact on their community.

Founding Story

ANY launched in 2014 after the success of New York Needs You (NYNY), founded in 2009 by Robert Reffkin. As an appointee of Mayor Bloomberg on the NYC Workforce Investment Board and the NYC Board of Education, Robert saw the incredible unmet need for mentorship and career preparation for low-income students, particularly those who are the first in their family to go to college. Robert faced several challenges in his youth, but was aided by nonprofit organizations that helped him achieve college and career success. Driven by a sense of gratitude, he founded NYNY at the age of 29 to mobilize a movement of young professional volunteers to assist low-income, first-generation college students in realizing their college and career ambitions.


With 15 full-time and 2 part-time staff members and a strong network of interns and volunteers, ANY has created a broad web of support and resources for our Fellows. Our Programs Team has extensive expertise and credentials in the field of education and a breadth of public interest experience working with young people, from TFA to Urban Alliance. We are also supported by an active and invested Governing Board and Young Leadership Board.
About You
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About Your Organization
Organization Name
Organization Country

, NY, New York City

Country where this project is creating social impact

, NY, New York

How long have you been in operation?

If your venture is not yet break-even or generating a surplus from sales, how are you covering the financial gap currently? What are your plans for breaking even in the future?

Approximately 75 words left (600 characters).

Tell us about your partnerships. What partnerships are critical for your solution’s success? How are you forming these partnerships?

NYNY partners with nonprofit organizations, public universities and high schools that focus on college access for underserved youth. Our partnership with the City University of New York (CUNY) has been critical to our success. Frank Sanchez, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
at CUNY, sits on our Governing Board and leaders in the CUNY system are thrilled by the support their students are receiving through NYNY's programs.

What, if any, corporate partners have you worked with regarding your solution? What is the nature of your relationship with these corporate partners (e.g. career/internship placement of your participants, financial sponsorship or donations, program development, etc.)

NYNY is fortunate to have the support of a variety of corporate partners, including Goldman Sachs, BlackRock, and Macy’s, each providing financial and in-kind support. Our partners also provide workshop space, summer internship placements, and career exposure opportunities. Additionally, many of our Mentor Coaches are employees at these companies and serve as internal champions of our work.

Barriers and Beneficiaries
U.S State(s) where your solution is creating impact

New Jersey, New York.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

The success of ANY is based on a strong network of passionate and committed Fellows, volunteers, and staff. As we expand geographically, our ability to attract qualified individuals who believe strongly in our mission could be a challenge. As an offset to this risk, ANY will seek to select cities for expansion that have, among other things, robust college networks, existing social eco-systems of talented young professionals and other nonprofit organizations who already work collaboratively with each other, funders, and both the public and private sector.

The Participants: Tell us about the people who are benefited by your solution, including demographics and a qualitative description of the population you are serving.

The NYNY Fellows Program currently serves 200 Fellows in New York. The NYNY Fellows are in their sophomore and junior years at 32 colleges and universities in and around New York City. Sixty-nine percent of Fellows attend the City University of New York (CUNY) schools, with 22% attending community colleges. Ninety-four percent are from low-income families and 50% live below the poverty line. All NYNY Fellows have demonstrated leadership potential and have a cumulative average GPA of 3.67 at the beginning of the program. NYNY Fellows are 56% female and 44% male, and reflect the ethnic and cultural diversity of New York City (Black: 29%, Hispanic: 25%, Asian: 24%, Unknown/Other 13%, White: 9%).