Interview with Aimée Eubanks Davis, Founder & CEO, Braven: www.bebraven.org
Tell us about your organization.
Braven empowers untapped college students with the skills, confidence, networks and experiences needed to succeed professionally beyond graduation. To do so, Braven partners with universities and employers to offer a rigorous, credit-bearing career-acceleration course followed by a post-course experience for college students who are first-generation or from low-income backgrounds.
By coaching our students in career readiness and leadership skills and connecting them with mission-aligned anchor employers, we strive to close the gap between rising college enrollment rates and growing recent-graduate un- and underemployment rates. We’re increasing rates of college persistence, growing both “soft” and “hard” skills necessary for the workplace, and helping our Fellows outpace the national average for strong job attainment in half the time.
What motivated you to start this organization?
I have a deep personal passion and belief that our next generation of leaders will emerge from everywhere. I grew up in low-income communities in Chicago but experienced being in an economically upwardly mobile family, which gave me a unique perspective. After joining Teach For America, teaching sixth grade in New Orleans, I eventually went on to lead the Human Assets team at TFA for eight years. In that role, I saw thousands of underrepresented students, including some of my own former 6th graders, struggle to make the transition from college to career. This experience coupled with my personal journey of growing up on Chicago’s South Side led me to feel great urgency to develop a systemic, sustainable, diverse talent strategy. In today’s world, it isn’t enough to simply graduate from college. You need support and networks to succeed professionally, and Braven was created to help provide that.
What successes have you seen so far?
We are starting to prove our theory of action: if you help students build their social capital and give them opportunities to develop professional hard and soft skills, then they will get high-quality internships and jobs.
We have also had immense interest in growing our program into new locations and new universities, which demonstrates the need we’ve uncovered and our ability to make an impact.
What have been the challenges?
The biggest challenge has been helping others to understand there is a problem. Many people see graduating from college as the end goal, with an expectation that career success will come naturally. We’re helping people understand that there is a gap that needs to be met to ensure this group of young people can achieve the highest levels of leadership.
Anything else you want us to know about your organization?
Our model is fueled by ambitious professionals from the workforce who believe in the American Dream and want it to be accessible to everyone. We’re always looking for more individuals to become leadership coaches who lead cohorts of 5-8 students through the Braven content. These individuals help their students build critical skills and social capital while getting to practice leadership and management skills that accelerate their own career. For more information, please visit www.bebraven.org/volunteer-opportunities/