New CEO Elizabeth Lindsey’s First Letter to the UA Community

Monday, April 12 was my first day as CEO of Urban Alliance, the pinnacle of my career so far. Within my first week, we grieved the loss of two more people of color to police violence – Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo. My second week brought the elation of some justice being served for murder of George Floyd and the devastation of seeing another child, Ma’Khia Bryant, murdered in broad daylight.

Through my own grief these past few days, I’ve also woken up every day excited and honored to be contributing to such an incredible organization. Despite the constant tumult of the world and the continued uncertainty of living through a global pandemic, Urban Alliance is a constant beacon of hope and impact. For the past 25 years, Urban Alliance has supported thousands of youth from diverse backgrounds to understand and access the vast world of choice available to them to pursue college and/or a career, helping them to achieve their dreams in a world that is so hard too much of the time for many of us.

As a Black woman who was the first in my family to go to college, UA’s work is deeply personal to me. My parents instilled in me the importance of education but didn’t always know how to guide me through the complexities of choosing a career pathway, deciding on a college, and breaking through to the middle class.

My teachers, supervisors, and mentors helped me to understand the wide array of choices available to me and how to approach them. It’s this extra support – this window into a world of networks and strategy for career success – that UA’s mentors and internships provide.

Thanks to the generosity and wisdom of my own informal network of support, I went to college and graduate school. Thanks to them, I had an amazing first job as an Executive Assistant at a nonprofit, which opened a world of possibility for me to give back to my community while pursuing a career that I love. It’s thanks to them that I’ve plotted a course into state and local government, nonprofit leadership, and into my dream job of leading a national organization that opens doors to opportunity for young people who look like me.

As we prepare to enter Urban Alliance’s 25th year of service, I am so excited to partner with the staff, board, and volunteers as we chart our path forward. In a labor market that has been upended by technological advances and a staggering increase in inequality, UA’s work is more important than ever.

I’m spending my first weeks on the job meeting with our staff and board, key stakeholders, and my incredible predecessor, Eshauna Smith, to learn more about UA’s mission, our partnerships, and what pieces of our work could be improved or replicated. Looking forward, we will be heavily focused on increasing the choices our students have after graduating – to attend college, enroll in training, and/or begin fulfilling careers right out of high school.

Access to career guidance, skills training, and an education aligned with our hopes and dreams is a privilege that is out of reach for too many young people. UA’s mission is to break down the walls between young people and the world of opportunity that can be impossible to see and too often, seemingly impossible to overcome. Every heartbreaking event in recent days, events that will undoubtedly continue to happen as the weeks and months go on, has reminded me again and again of the necessity of Urban Alliance’s work. I’m indescribably grateful to be joining this organization at this time.

Elizabeth Lindsey