Farewell from Outgoing CEO Eshauna Smith

Dear Friends,

I cannot believe that after nearly 8 years, my time with this wonderful organization has come to an end. Words cannot express the great appreciation, love, and gratitude I feel for this organization and all that we’ve accomplished together. For the past 8 years I have been able to begin each day knowing I had the opportunity to serve young people and to make a difference.

After a tumultuous and trying year, I am so proud of how the UA team rallied to ensure our students were supported during a global pandemic, ensuing economic recession, and devastating racial justice reckoning. While we have faced our fair share of challenges this past year, we used this time as an opportunity to reexamine why we do this work, reimagine our program, and restart tough conversations about where we are as a country compared to where we need to be.

The senseless murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and too many others brought to the surface the entrenched racism which has fueled and fed our systems and structures – including schools and workplaces – for hundreds of years.  I firmly believe that every community-serving organization has a responsibility to contribute toward a more equitable future. As our society and sector evolve, even direct service organizations will have a greater role to play in this critical systems change work. Urban Alliance is well-positioned to advance the fight for equity by leveling the playing field for Black and Brown youth, ensuring that they have access to the tools, networks and experiences necessary to build the upwardly-mobile careers that they deserve.

With an increased focus on inclusivity comes a growing recognition that on-the-job learning, skills training, and lived experience are equally, if not more critical to job success than a college degree – a promising trend for the many students we serve for whom college may still be out of reach. Over the next few years, our ability to provide students with additional pathways to economic mobility, from industry-specific pathways to expanded training will be critical to building a more diverse talent pipeline.

This past year taught us so much about who we are as an organization. We have come out on the other side a stronger, more connected, and more focused organization. Urban Alliance is fully ready to take on the challenges of a rapidly-evolving world of work – and Elizabeth Lindsey’s passion for our mission and immense talent make her the right person to lead UA into this exciting new chapter. I could not imagine handing over the reins to anyone more deserving. While I am sad to be leaving the organization that has been my home for so long, I know I’m leaving you in excellent hands.

Thank you for your support and partnership during my time with UA. It is because of this incredible community that thousands of young people are on a path toward a brighter future. This organization is truly making an impact every day and we are all the better for being able to play a small role and part in its success.

With love and gratitude,