Singer will.i.am describes the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights where he grew up as a “wasteland.” He hopes that thanks to science education and tech it can become a place that fosters the next wave of entrepreneurs with the TRANS4M Boyle Heights Initiative.
Backed by $7 million, three-year commitment from Chase, the initiative will help build a center where local teens can learn employable skills in the arts and digital media and explore careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Chase will donate the first million to i.am angel foundation, a charity founded by will.i.am, to break ground on the center and the rest will go to the other nonprofit partners backing the initiative in years to come.
The Black Eyed Peas frontman has said he’s got a feeling that the TRANS4M Boyle Heights can help launch a multi-talented entrepreneur, such as Thomas Alva Edison.
Finding the “next” Edison may have particular resonance for Laurene Powell Jobs, whose late husband Steve Jobs was called the “modern-day Edison” for his vision and revolutionary products. Powell Jobs co-founded College Track, one of the partners in TRANS4M Boyle Heights. When a friend from graduate school recruited her to act as a volunteer college counselor in 1995, she was “pretty shocked” by the situation at Belmont’s Carlmont High School.
“I got very involved in some of the student’s family lives,” Powell Jobs said. “And I really started to understand that this was a much more layered, deep problem in the community. The national education nonprofit currently helps students in East Palo Alto, Oakland, San Francisco, New Orleans and Aurora, Colorado.
Chase and College Track are currently in the planning stages for a range of student focused programs, including those that touch on internship, mentoring and financial education, Chase spokesperson Gary Kishner said. Chase will also offer jobs and workplace experiences to College Track students through a Chase internship program that is expected to launch in fall 2012.
“We have been in Boyle Heights for years, but through will.i.am’s vision and our partners together addressing multiple issues that afflict the community, we think we can make remarkable change in a short period of time. At Chase, we think we can scale this model to other communities we serve,” said Kimberly Davis, President of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation.
The main goal of the initiative for Will.i.am is to “get the kids to go to school and turn them into entrepreneurs.”
“Neighborhoods change when there’s education and opportunity, then you know how to take your dream and turn it into reality.”
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