Urban Alliance Foundation
Veronica Nolan is a dynamo who is passionate about teens. She fell in love with them when she worked as a Teach for America teacher at Eastern Senior High School in Washington, DC, right after college. Nolan was given a Spanish language class where the kids were underperforming. By year's end she had the class outperforming the upper level Spanish students.
"Teachers that taught the younger groups were always shocked that I loved working with teenagers. I think for me the most exciting part about working with high school and older youth is that they are on the edge of being an adult, and you can really help shape their future and realize their potential."
Young people can use an advocate like Nolan. The statistics are sobering. Only 33 percent of DC's youth can find viable employment and white youth are twice more likely to be employed than their minority counterparts. Youth employment is at a 50-year low for the entire nation, and only 43 percent of DC youth graduate from high school in five years—the fourth highest drop-out rate in the nation.
Nolan came to Urban Alliance after four years of teaching, and within a year became its executive director at age 27. Urban Alliance helps young people from under-resourced areas in the District of Columbia prepare for successful careers through internship and mentoring opportunities in professional settings such as the World Bank, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Marriott hotels. The goal, says Nolan, is to "catapult" these kids out of poverty through this exposure and skill-building.
Four years after taking over the leadership role at Urban Alliance, she has been credited with expanding its reach from serving only Anacostia Senior High School to serving students city-wide. She helped develop a unique and effective youth development model that has employed more than 700 DC youth, resulting in a 96 percent high school graduation rate and an 80 percent college enrollment rate. Nolan also created an alumni services program to support Urban Alliance students once they have gotten into college. The organization now helps students with everything from filling out their financial aid forms to acquiring scholarships and counseling them through hard times.
"My desire is extremely simple," Nolan says. "I just believe in fairness. Why should these kids, who by no volition of their own were born into true poverty, have less of an education and less of an opportunity than someone who happened to have the good fortune to have been born elsewhere?"