Baynes Richards is known in his Crown Heights, Brooklyn, neighborhood as "The Bond Man."
Municipal bonds, that is. Where two years ago he would join a pickup basketball game after school, today he pores over books on the bond industry.
Mr. Richards, now 21, is a sophomore at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and majors in finance, thanks to the mentoring program at Roosevelt & Cross Inc., a Manhattan-based municipal bond dealer. Under the program, the firm employs him as a student intern and pays his tuition based on the grades he receives. Straight As get him full coverage.
How did he get so far? Looking for something other than the carpentry program he was attending in 1990, he stopped by his high school's career development office and found out about the opportunity at Roosevelt & Cross. Researching for his interview singled him out from four or five other candidates, and he was in.
Roosevelt & Cross is not alone. To give back some goodwill to the communities where they do business, firms across the country are offering disadvantaged youths and minority students mentoring programs, summer and full-time internships, or career information.
Roosevelt & Cross chose to test its program on one person, Mr. Richards, in hopes of eventually branching out to more students. Since then, the young man has worked every day after school and full-time during the weekends and school vacations.
He gets hands-on experience in research, operations, public finance, and underwriting. While he started out doing mostly clerical work, he is now learning more advanced skills, like bond analysis.
Employees from all the firm's departments offer him advice about his course selection and other academic issues. In general, he says he is learning qualities he will need as an adult. "It helps improve you as a person because you have to be on time and you have to be responsible," Mr. Richards commented. "Although your job may not be the most significant, it still counts because you are a part of the team."
Wall Street, Mr. Richards said, seems like a very different world from the perspective of an inner-city youth. He described the transition from a Brooklyn vocational school to the Manhattan finance world as "feeling like Cinderella," and he believes there are others like him who can discover their own way out. In the fall, he will travel to classrooms at his former high school to encourage students to look into corporate programs.
"If they see someone their age and see that they can hold their own, they'll be encouraged," he said, noting that Crown Heights children grow up with plenty of crime but not much hope. Taking his identity as a role model very seriously, Mr. Richards added, "You can't mess up because everyone is looking to you."
For many years, Crown Heights has primarily been a middle- and working-class black neighborhood without the high crime rates of places like Washington Height or East New York, according to Michael Geffrard, New York City's director of public finance.
In the past 12 to 14 years, he said, an orthodox Hasidic Jewish population has moved to the neighborhood. Tensions between the increasingly poor blacks and their new neighbors exploded into riots in the summer of 1991, when a black boy was killed by a Hasidic driver. While the courts proclaimed it an accident, many black residents felt the court was slanted toward the Hasidim.
A Range of Programs
Since then the two ethnic groups have been negotiating their way toward more peaceful relations, Mr. Geffrard said. But as Crown Heights seeks racial stability, he said, it is still an accomplishment for a black youth from this area to get into the finance business. White youths from working-class backgrounds have become Wall Street professionals, but that has been uncommon among their black counterparts, he said.
Francis B. McKenna, former head of public finance for Roosevelt & Cross, has a special interest in serving black inner-city youths. Getting economically disadvantaged youth into the workplace, he said, is another piece to the puzzle of improving urban society.
In a March 1991 letter, Mr. McKenna wrote of a Roosevelt & Cross "affirmative action and equal opportunity effort" specifically requesting minority students from Brooklyn's George Westinghouse Vocational and Technical High School. the school Mr. Richards was attending a year earlier when he found Roosevelt & Cross.
"I wish that affirmative action programs mandated by the government were more oriented to the high school level," said Mr. McKenna, now with Glickenhaus & Co., in a recent interview. "At this age, [students] just don't have the vision" to determine the career skills they will need later in life.
Other training programs range from corporation-sponsored summer jobs for students, to a nonprofit partnership dedicated to matching young people with firms, to a national effort that provides 5,000 students with internships.
First Chicago Capital Markets Inc., which has participated in urban housing and economic development, has focused for the past three years on two inner-city neighborhoods in Chicago. The firm offers those neighborhoods, one predominantly black and the other Hispanic, a summertime teller training program for interested high school juniors.
According to Diane Smith, vice president of corporate and community affairs for First Chicago, a separate jobs program had eight students this summer, training youths for half the summer and employing them as tellers the other half. They were asked to return in the fall and work part-time, she said.
The firm committed itself to these local neighborhoods, Ms. Smith said. After establishing relations with community leaders and assessing local needs, the corporation created the First Futures Program, designed to get minorities into entry-level jobs, and an eight-week career training program for adults.
At the National Level
Another effort, New York City Partnership Inc., is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving business in the city. It matches youths with participating corporations, including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Merrill Lynch & Co., and Chase Manhattan Bank.
The youths are referred by the partnership's five public partners, the City University of New York, the New York State Department of Labor, the New York City Public Schools, the New York City Department of Employment, and the Private Industry Council.
Once the students are matched with a firm for a summer job, corporations give them clerical jobs with an hourly wage, according to Jill Goldsmith, director of education and youth for the partnership.
On a national level, Inroads Inc., with headquarters in Chicago and 39 affiliates across the country, coordinates an internship program that draws on corporations and finance, corporations help minority college and high school students get into business or engineering, according to Byron Clemons, a 1986 Inroads graduate who is now a staff specialist in the Washington office.
The idea for Inroads was born in 1963 during the march on Washington when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have A Dream" speech. According to Inroads spokeswoman Doris Danielson, Frank Carr, a white publishing executive, saw the need then for more minorities to enter professions.
Ms. Danielson said his experience on the Washington mall "planted a seed that took a while to sprout," and six years later Mr. Carr left his job in Chicago to begin the search for corporate sponsors.
In 1970, he opened the internship program with 117 sponsors and 25 interns, she said. Today, Inroads provides 5,000 students across the country internships at 700 sponsoring corporations.
While Inroads does work to help minority students get into technical or business fields, Ms. Danielson said that it stresses talent and leadership rather than economic
status. Students, who are recruited by V
school career development centers, must be in college or college-bound with a solid B average, she said, and show strong leadership qualities and extracurricular involvement.
Once recruited, they are placed in a talent pool and go through a preliminary training program run by Inroads in preparation for interviews with sponsoring corporations. When sponsors have hired interns, they must submit a career development plan. And while no formal contract exists, Ms. Danielson said, the students are expected to remain at the corporation until they finish school.
Although corporations are not required to hire their interns upon graduation, Mr. Clemons said, 70% of the interns become employees with their sponsors or other corporations involved with Inroads.
Some of the sponsors are GE Capital, A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc., Fidelity Investments, Merrill Lynch, and J.P. Morgan Securities Inc.
"The business community has always been a strong supporter of this organization," Ms. Danielson said. She noted that a 1979 Inroads graduate, Marc McIntosh, managing director of the PaineWebber Telecommunications Group, was named in a Black Enterprise cover story as being one of the 25 "hottest blacks" on Wall Street.
Eight-four percent of Inroads' funding is from sponsorships fees, averaging $3,000, that it charges the corporations. Private firms' donations and grants are another source of income.
Ms. Danielson noted a significant participation increase in the 1990s, pointing to GE Capital's jump from 17 to 88 interns this year. She attributed the rising interest in bringing minorities into the professional world to a book published in 1987 by the Hudson Institute of Indianapolis, "Workforce 2000." The book says that because women, immigrants, and minorities will make up the majority of the American population in the future, it is from this pool that all professions will have to draw.
Some mentoring programs try to hit closer to home than the professional world. In these programs, individual corporate employees will visit for an hour or two with one youth on a regular basis. While they vary in scheduling and activities, the programs are intended to offer young people a role model.
"It's a great opportunity to help the kids and to make a friend," said Yvonne Harris-Jones, managing director of employee relations at the American Stock Exchange and a mentor for the exchange's Capital Mentoring Program.
Begun early this year, the program involves 22 mentors who visit with their 17-year-old students once a week. The students, who have been identified as "at risk," were referred to the program by the New York City Partnership and matched to volunteers at the exchange according to interests. In their first year, Ms. Harris-Jones said, most of the pairs have been successful, although others have not worked out.
Others with mentoring programs include First Chicago and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Goldman, Sachs & Co., on the other hand, has channeled its philanthropic efforts for the past two years through Big Brothers/Big Sisters Inc. of New York City.
To become "Bigs," the 21 Goldman Sachs volunteers have had to go through extensive screening and training. The volunteer organization has matched them with students, or "Littles," based upon common interests, according to Allan Luks, executive director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters. While they all come from families in need, the students range from high achievers to those identified as at risk of dropping out of school.
Littles from Corlears Junior High School 56 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan are bused every other Thursday to the investment firm's Broad Street office, Mr. Luks said, where sessions alternate between one-on-one meetings and group activities.
One volunteer, Mike Armellino, a general partner and chief executive officer of asset management with Goldman Sachs, said he and his Little might talk or play during their one-one-one meetings. Their group ventures, he said, have included picnics, visits to television studios, and an Alvin Ailey dance concert.
Mr. Armellino, who got extra training and has become a full-time Big after business hours, commented, "The people who are involved did it to have some additional activity away from the office."
Other New York City businesses have looked to Big Brothers/Big Sisters as a way to serve the community. Both Weil, Gotshal & Manges, a law firm that takes Littles on the wait list, and Moore Capital Management have inquired about the program at Goldman Sachs, representatives from the firms said.
Whether they serve as business mentors or surrogate siblings, the professionals who see that youths get a step up in life are required by no authority to do so. Nevertheless, they say it is their duty to help. Commented Ms. Smith from First Chicago, "This is a way to give back to the community and economically serve as a role model."