America Needs You 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.
America Needs You (ANY) was founded by Robert Reffkin in July 2009, originally under the name of New York Needs You. As an appointee by 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. He founded the organization 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.
Due to our program successes, we launched a sister program in New Jersey in 2012. In January 2014, the New York Needs You name was changed to America Needs You, in anticipation of our national launch. All local sites operate under the America Needs You name and our next site will be in Illinois, which will begin programming in July 2015!
Billions of dollars have been invested in charter schools, K-12 education reform, and college access programs. Due in part to this effort, undergraduate enrollment rose 37% between 2000 and 2010 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2011). Unfortunately, few programs exist to support college students during their journey to complete a four-year degree and enter the workforce.
At a time when the stakes of college completion are particularly high, 60% of low income college students do not complete their degrees and first-generation college students drop out at 5 times the rate of their peer group—only 11% graduate (National Postsecondary Student Aid Study). The study also showed that 85% percent of first-generation students are from low-income families, and these students are more likely to begin their college experience at a community college.
The U.S. Department of Education also found that the 60% of low-income students that dropped out of college, 47% left in good academic standing. The most common reason students cite for dropping out is that they do not believe college will help them pursue a career and achieve financial security (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). For students without professional mentors or family legacies, even those fortunate enough to progress through college face the difficult challenges of selecting, securing, and succeeding in summer internships that lead to full time jobs on the path to promising careers.
America Needs You aims to build a movement of like-minded individuals who believe that one day there will be no barriers to economic mobility for students with ambition and ability. By mobilizing volunteers we will ensure that low-income and first-generation college students have the support, information and access necessary to realize their career aspirations.