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Empowering future leaders
Every year, MLK Scholars gives over 600 Boston teens meaningful career-building experience through summer employment at local organizations. More than just a paycheck, it also provides access to digital financial capability training, bi-weekly leadership forums, and network building. It fosters the kind of rounded economic empowerment that can truly make a difference and drive equity in the City. But what happens in a year like 2020 when a global pandemic, lockdowns, and shifting health guidelines threaten a program of this scope?
Inequity doesn’t pause for pandemics
The reality is cancelling MLK Scholars was never an option. The inequities it aims to address don’t go on hold during a pandemic. They get worse. Gaps get wider. And disparities increase. As the pandemic waged a disproportionate impact on BIPOC communities in 2020, it was more important than ever to keep Boston youth connected to opportunities that matter.
Through the tireless effort and collaboration of all organizations and partners involved, MLK Scholars adapted to the 2020 landscape and continued the program for a 13th year in a row. Virtually and safely, City youth joined the Boston workforce. The leadership forums pivoted to a remote format, where over 400 youth logged in each week to hear from civic and business leaders in sessions led by their peers from the MLK Scholars Youth Council. And Scholars gained financial education through a digital partnership with EVERFI, a platform that provides important knowledge and tools to help the students make sound financial decisions and help achieve future-oriented goals. The elements of the program that set it apart were achieved despite the odds.
Making an impact
MLK Scholars prepares teens for the real world, and 2020 presented extraordinary real-world challenges. A year unlike any other gave them a unique experience and skills that will last a lifetime. It wasn’t your typical summer job. They were helping organizations take on the unprecedented challenges of a global pandemic. Forced to adapt and work from home or in person with masks, Boston teens made their mark on the pressing issues facing their communities:
This was more than just a bullet point to add to their resume. Instead of being forced to the sidelines, Scholars had the opportunity to meet the moment. And they did, making an impact on their City—when their City needed it most. They showed resilience, perseverance and a willingness to step up. Those are the type of strong leadership skills they’ll bring to the table in the future. We suggest you save them a seat.
The future will not be put on hold
The challenges of the pandemic persist in 2021, but they will not keep the MLK Scholars program from empowering Boston youth. Fighting inequity requires commitment that can’t waver when things get hard—and that’s why John Hancock, along with our partners, is proud to announce that in just a few months, MLK Scholars will begin its 14th year.