A Community-Minded Partnership: Northern Trust and Urban Alliance

Since 2013, Northern Trust has been a key partner for Urban Alliance in Chicago. For eight years, they have opened the door to their downtown financial headquarters to 78 students from underrepresented communities in the city, providing money in their pockets, mentorship, and valuable connections within the financial industry.

“Northern Trust’s community-minded leadership is a model of innovative corporate citizenship in Chicago,” said Urban Alliance CEO Elizabeth Lindsey. “Over their 8-year partnership with Urban Alliance, they have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to opening doors for this city’s young people to achieve lifelong economic self-sufficiency through meaningful paid internships and mentorship – even during a global pandemic.”

In 2020, as many jobs went virtual and many families faced dire needs when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Northern Trust worked with Urban Alliance on an innovative new approach to our long-time partnership. Instead of hosting students for virtual internships, Northern Trust instead sponsored 12 remote internships at nonprofits across the city providing key support to the community during such a difficult time. Importantly, they still ensured a great experience for students, who – despite a global pandemic – still had the opportunity to develop critical professional soft skills, add to their resumes, and build connections in the working world.

Making an Impact

From healthcare, to food and housing insecurity, Urban Alliance students were able to gain important early work experience while serving their community at 12 nonprofits across the city: Alternatives, Inc.; Blessings in a Backpack; Catholic Charities Peace Corner; Chicago Urban League; CPS Lives; Cradles to Crayons; Firehouse Community Arts Center; Horizons for Youth; Humble Design; Sinai Health System; and United Way of Metro Chicago.

At Sinai Health System, Northern Trust-sponsored intern Glorybee Garcia has helped with the nonprofit’s vaccination efforts, reaching out to remind patients – in both English and Spanish – about their vaccine appointments. In fact, speaking with patients quickly became Glorybee’s favorite part of her internship – and is great practice for her future career in nursing. “It’s an amazing program for students to grow,” she said.

“Sinai Chicago is excited to continue this partnership with Urban Alliance thanks to Northern Trust’s sponsorship this year,” added Tondalaya Shepard, Volunteer and Community Service Director at Sinai Health System. “The interns bring a fresh perspective and new ideas. We appreciate the energy and enthusiasm that they show for new tasks and projects.”

Urban Alliance intern Melanie Montero has helped Humble Design transform the lives of families exiting homelessness through the power of free movers and interior design and donated furniture and household goods. “Melanie has jumped in to conduct client research, maintain our CRM database, update our partnering agency information, and help with donor relations,” said Julie Dickinson, Director of Humble Design – Chicago.  “Humble Design has a small, 5-person staff. The addition of an Urban Alliance intern for a long period of time is transformative and truly valued.”

For Melanie, the experience was even more transformative. “I have grown a lot since I’ve started Urban Alliance. I was very shy and didn’t really know how to explain my thoughts.” Now, she says, “I have become more confident in the way I speak … I believe it is important to have Urban Alliance available in communities like mine because young people in my community aren’t offered many opportunities. Urban Alliance makes it possible for young adults to seek better and beneficial opportunities for themselves and live potentially successful lives.”

As schools moved to virtual learning, food insecurity became a major issue for many families who relied on schools for breakfast and lunch. Blessings in Backpack, whose mission is to provide meals to elementary school children who might otherwise go hungry, received extra support this year.

“Blessings in a Backpack is incredibly grateful for Northern Trust’s sponsorship of our two outstanding Urban Alliance interns, Londyn Tipton and Yitlali Morfin,” said Brent Glass, Director of Individual Giving. “Upon joining the team, Londyn and Yitlali made an immediate impact. They have developed and maintained relationships with donors and volunteers, created processes to standardize tasks, provided research for new and existing initiatives, and offered thoughtful feedback on current organizational systems—and that’s summarizing!”

Yitlali and Londyn both grew their professional skills and are grateful for the opportunity. Yitlali summed it up best: “I never thought I would be who I am now,” she said. “This program changes lives. It changed mine and I know it has changed my peers’ in this program as well. I was so confused what I was going to be in life and how I was going to accomplish things in my life when I didn’t have confidence in myself … This program brings people faith that they can be something in this world and everyone is super supportive and that is what keeps us going.”

We are excited to see what transformational experiences Year Nine of our Northern Trust partnership will bring to both young people in Chicago and the broader community.