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An “aha!” moment can be a sudden realization, recognition or inspiration for solving a problem.
For Michael Ragheb, three “aha” moments led him to develop Knowledge of Careers, a program for underprivileged high school students who do not have the tools needed to become successful in the 21st century workplace.
In 2014, Ragheb, while completing a graduate program, participated in field work at the Belafonte TACOLCY Center. Located in Liberty City, one of Miami’s underserved neighborhoods, this nonprofit organization was established in 1967.
Ragheb’s “ aha moments” came after researching nonprofits nationally. From his findings, the programs studied did not focus on helping students apply what they learned or address the social aspects of professionalism or provide networks of professionals for high school students to tap into.
Connecting-the-dots, in 2015 Ragheb founded Knowledge of Careers to help underprivileged youth experience and become successful in careers through internships and entrepreneurship.
His motivation was personal and profound. In his own words, “I was very fortunate growing up. … The opportunities and privileges I received were not bestowed on every child.”
Recognizing his good fortune, Ragheb has spent most of his professional life seeking to provide others with opportunities. His enterprises include Knowledge of Careers, pediatric telemedicine, neurological research in Haiti and work to increase healthcare access in the United States and around the world. Previously he worked in finance, public health, cancer and vector research.
According to Knowledge Of Careers Vice President and Chief Learning Officer Andrew Tripodo, the nonprofit is designed to increase high school students’ access to opportunities. It connects them to local professionals, finds paid internships and helps them develop the skills needed to turn their ideas and passions into viable businesses.
Students are selected based on their level of participation and engagement. They are introduced to careers through speakers. Training includes high intense in-depth social entrepreneurship, professional skill development, business model canvas, public speaking and professional emailing. Civility in the workplace could be considered, too.
Since beginning at Booker T. Washington Senior High School in 2014, over 300 students have been connected to over 40 local professionals from a wide variety of careers, facilitated 1,900 additional educational hours for students, and given out over $3,000 in merit based pay, money that goes directly to the students.
Students participating two years in the program created their ownorganizations to solve problems in their neighborhoods.
At the March 2018 Knowledge of Careers Pitch Night, funders from across Miami industries attended. Students from Booker T. Washington and Miami senior high schools applied the skills they learned to convince the audience to support their social change organizations, each designed to solve a long standing community problem.
The winning team, BEAUTIFY, was awarded the grand prize. Developed by Booker T. Washington students Khaniya Roberts and Tiliyah Pierre-Michel, the intent is to help teenage girls suffering from low-self esteem due to poor body image through meetings, makeup and mentorship.
The other student competitors were also awarded $500 from the University of Miami. To everyone’s surprise, one of the judges, Pat Morris, community relations director for Wells Fargo, granted an additional $500 to each of the sophomore organizations. Winners all!
Program funders, speakers and judges were requested to comment on their observations for this column.
- Mary Newman, a retired school librarian, is the current president of the Miami Shores Rotary Club.” We gave $4,000.00 to deserving students at BTW.”
- Cristina Mas, an active member of Miami’s civic and social communities, has been a speaker twice. “When I arrived at Booker T. Washington for the presentations the kids were incredibly engaged!”
- Scott Galvin, North Miami City Council, “KOC is not just reaching some of Dade’s most at-risk teens, they’re providing rich, deep curriculum.”
- Kyle Mullan, Social Studies Teacher/Dean of Studies, The Cushman School, “The power of KOC lies in the ability to expose and inspire.”
- Corey White, Teach for America, “Being able to see our youth reimage what Miami could look like is one part of what makes the work of Knowledge Of Careers so inspiring.”
- Susan Keenan, Board Chair, Himalayan Children’s Charities, “ Through mentorship and hands on experience, KOC is expanding their view of what they believe is possible for themselves, and that makes all the difference.”
- Alexander Gastevich, ANO Gastevich Management, Inc., “Knowledge of Careers helps students identify potential career paths and develop skills that will translate well into the professional world, thus creating a foundation for success that will carry on with them for the rest of their lives.”
In the coming months, these innovative projects will be shown around Miami. Visit the website for project descriptions and updates: http://knowledgeofcareers.org
Dorothy Jenkins Fields, Ph.D., is a historian and founder of the Black Archives, History & Research Foundation of South Florida. Send feedback to email@example.com.