Nonprofit for Black youth: Rochester kids get help navigating college, career

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A brand new nonprofit called “GEMS: Growing Entrepreneurial Mindsets in School” is expanding roots in the City of Rochester. The nonprofit offers workshops for young Black students looking for help in navigating their future.

Kevin Bradford is the creator, who is starting the effort in about 5-6 places across the country, Rochester included. The locations are where connections and friends reached out and told him there was a need there.

Bradford graduated college from the University of Dayton a few years ago. He says the experience was phenomenal – now he’s working as a financial analyst for Google. The reason he’s thankful today is because he wasn’t alone in his journey.

“You’re 18 and you’re told to figure out your life, from there it’s really confusing, but I had so many mentors that helped me along the way,” he said.

And he knew there was a need for other young Black men to have mentors of their own.

That’s where his idea came into play to start GEMS – a nonprofit to help these students prepare for the real work: prepping for a job interview, figuring out potential career interests and colleges that fit best.

Bradford says for now workshops are completely virtual.

“There’s three main focuses, one is college prep: managing college apps, financial aid, loans things like that, professional development, and not only do we teach you how to get to college but once you get there how to handle business, resume building, interview prep, financial literacy, and then business experience,” he said. Bradford says they partner students with nonprofits in their local communities for that business experience.

For the organization to get certified, it took a while – especially in the pandemic – but Bradford says all the work he put into launching it was inspired but something and someone else.

He worked on a similar project in college with someone special – a mentor of his own.

“A mentor of mine his name was John Mittelstaedt, he had recently passed, and me and him were working on a project at the University of Dayton,” he said. “The project was for college students teaching them how to navigate business schools helping them find careers and jobs.”

After his friend’s passing – Bradford felt the work wasn’t done and wanted to carry it on.

“Like you see someone on the other side and that’s one of the things in the Black community you want to consistently show, is that there are these huge steps we can do, graduate high school, have an amazing experience in college, and go off and do great things that’s definitely a cycle I would love to start in the Black community,” he said.

The end goal? To work with universities and schools more in-person as soon as the pandemic calms down – and even partner with them for workshops, tours and scholarships.

The theme right now – meeting students where they’re at. Even if it means through a screen for now.

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