In November of last year, BNY Mellon launched a $6 million workforce development initiative targeting youth aging out of the foster care system. As the initiative celebrates its inaugural anniversary, BNY Mellon has already been recognized for its philanthropic efforts and the positive impact it has had on Pittsburgh youth.

BNY Mellon was one of nine honorees at this year’s annual Association of Fundraising Professionals National Philanthropy Day awards held Nov.17. The corporation was recognized in the category of “Outstanding Philanthropic Organization” for its “Powering Potential” program that works with at-risk youth.

POWERING POTENTIAL—BNY Mellon volunteers work with youth from Auberle.

“There really are no other corporations who are stepping up to aid foster children aging out of the system. This is an intervention to break the cycle of extreme poverty and homelessness,” said Lane Cigna, spokesperson for BNY Mellon. “This is a group that really needed a champion and we’re honored to be the champions.”

In the first year of the program, BNY Mellon provided approximately $250,000 to four non-profit organizations, which included Auberle, Familylinks, Family Services of Western Pennsylvania and Holy Family Institute. All four organizations have a proven track record of providing support services for youth in or emerging from foster care.

Annually, more than 25,000 youth in the United States age out of the foster care system when they turn 18. Research shows that these individuals are at greater risk for unemployment, poverty and homelessness.

“We selected this population because if you look at the statistical outcomes for this population, we saw it as a niche opportunity. If you look at some of the outcomes for these young people, there’s a lack of attainment of a high school diploma or a GED,” said Kenya Boswell, the program’s director. “The only way you’re going to learn how to work is by working, so we want to make sure these young people have access to a employment opportunities. We’re trying to raise awareness of this population.”

Through the program, youth are provided with mentoring, education and workforce opportunities. The goal of the program is to increase the number of foster children graduating from high school, going on to post-secondary education and finding employment.

“We’re looking at employee engagement opportunities in terms of mentoring and job coaching. Even though we’re taking a leadership role as a company, we’re looking at reaching out to other companies,” Boswell said. “We definitely want to beef up the opportunities for more employees to get involved if they want to.”

The initiative is part of BNY Mellon’s “Powering Potential” program, the corporation’s philanthropic focus on helping people in need by concentrating on basic needs and workforce development. Currently the corporation employs 7,800 people locally.

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