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May 15, 1965
|Occupation||CEO of Year Up|
Gerald Chertavian is a social entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of Year Up, an intensive one-year education and training program that serves low-income young adults ages 18–24.
Background and Family
Gerald Chertavian grew up in Lowell, MA, with his father Levon, a child of Armenian immigrants who was working as a dentist and his mother Joyce, a dental hygienist. He attended Bowdoin College, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude with a B.A. in Economics, and later Harvard Business School, where he earned his M.B.A with honors. In 1992, he married Kate Smallwood Chertavian. Gerald and Kate live in Cambridge, MA with their three children.
Wall Street and Conduit
Chertavian began his career on Wall Street as an officer of the Chemical Banking Corporation. He then moved on to become the head of marketing at Transnational Financial Services in London. He co-founded Conduit Communications in 1993 and fostered its growth to $20M in annual revenues and more than 130 employees in London, Amsterdam, New York and Boston. From 1993 to 1998, Conduit ranked as one of England’s fastest growing companies. Following the sale of Conduit to i-Cube in 1999, Chertavian turned his full attention to social entrepreneurship.
Early Work with Young Adults
In 1985, Chertavian began participating in the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program. In 1987, shortly after graduating from Bowdoin, he was introduced to 10-year-old David Heredia, the “Little” who would inspire him to start Year Up. Heredia’s neighborhood was known for crime and drug use; it was then the most heavily photographed crime scene in New York City. For three years, Chertavian spent every Saturday with David, and their relationship continued after Chertavian's move to London. He knew his Little Brother was an intelligent and motivated young man with a passion for drawing, but also came to realize that because Heredia lacked access and opportunity, he would have to travel a difficult path to realize his potential. Struck by the injustice of David’s situation and the enormous talent and potential going to waste in America, Chertavian developed a vision for an urban school that would provide young adults with the skills, experience and support they needed to realize their potential.
In 2000, Chertavian founded Year Up, a one-year education and professional job training program for urban young adults (age 18-24). The program combines hands-on skill development, college credits, and corporate internships. During the first six months, participants focus on skill mastery in the Desktop Support/IT Help Desk, Quality Assurance, or Investment Operations. Equal emphasis is placed on developing the professional skills required in a corporate workplace, such as effective communication, leadership, and teamwork. During the second six months of the program, students are placed in internships with local partner companies.
The inaugural Year Up cohort (22 students) began classes at 93 Summer Street, Boston, MA in July 2001. Since that class, the organization has served over 10,000 students and partnered with over 300 major corporations, with sites in Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Jacksonville, Miami, Washington DC (National Capital Region), New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix (Arizona), Providence, San Francisco Bay Area, and Seattle (Puget Sound).
The results have been impressive: according to internal statistics, 85% of alumni are employed or attending school full-time within four months of graduating, earning an average wage of $15/hour ($30,000/year for full-time employees). 100% of qualified students are placed into internships, and over 90% of corporate partners would recommend the program to a colleague or friend. A 2011 study by the Economic Mobility Corporation found that graduates of the Year Up program earned, on average, 30% more than a control group. Mark Elliot, President of the Economic Mobility Corporation, remarked that “These are the most exciting evaluation results we’ve seen in youth employment in 20 or 30 years — and the first to show a really substantial earnings gain.”
In addition to its core direct service program, Year Up advocates for broader systems change to increase opportunities for disconnected young adults. They also actively engage their alumni in community building efforts, and see them as central to the broader movement to close the Opportunity Divide in America.
In 2011, Chertavian announced the creation of a Professional Training Corps (PTC) at the Clinton Global Initiative. Modeled after the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), the PTC will be a community college-based program that will connect young adults to living-wage employment so they can support themselves and build professional skills while they obtain an associate degree. The PTC model is built on key elements of the Year Up program, and is tailored to the community college student to accelerate their academic and professional success.
Year Up has also been recognized as one of the "Best NonProfits to Work For" by the NonProfit Times in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Awards, Honors, and Memberships
Awards and Honors
- Social Entrepreneurship Award by the Manhattan Institute (2003)
- Freedom House Archie R. Williams, Jr. Technology Award (2005)
- Ashoka Fellow (2007)
- Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters (2010)
- Mount Ida College, Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters (2012)
- Jefferson Award, Outstanding Service by an Entrepreneur (2013)
- Wheelock College, Passion For Action Leadership Award (2013)
- White House, Youth Jobs+, Champions of Change (2013)
- Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award (2014)
- Bowdoin College (2002-2012)
- The Boston Foundation (2008-2012)
- Massachusetts State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (2009-2013)
- Harvard Business School Social Enterprise Initiative (2011–present)
- World Economic Forum, Youth Unemployment Council (2012–present)
- Roxbury Community College, Chair (2013–present)
Gerald Chertavian's book, “A Year Up: How a Pioneering Program Teaches Young Adults Real Skills for Real Jobs with Real Success”, discusses the journey that took him to Year Up and his experiences within the organization, as well as the journeys of several Year Up students. It made the best seller lists of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today shortly after its release in July 2012.