Young people are facing strong headwinds as they pursue career success in today’s economy. But there are bright spots.

Now and in coming weeks, we’re highlighting individuals working hard to succeed despite their challenges. We’re raising awareness of what’s possible to inspire and encourage others.  

It’s part of AT&T’s $10 million commitment in 2020 to create economic opportunity and foster upward mobility for Black and underserved communities. This commitment builds on the $215 million1 we’ve contributed in the past five years to organizations working to increase education, skills building and career readiness opportunities in these communities.

Year Up

AT&T has worked with Year Up since 2016 and has committed to host 200 interns from Year Up annually by 2022. The non-profit was created in 2000 to close the so-called ‘opportunity divide,’ ensuring young adults gain skills, experiences and support needed to reach their potential. Over the last 20 years, they’ve served nearly 30,000 students, with 90% of Year Up graduates gaining employment or enrolling in postsecondary education within four months of completing the program.

Jenny Acosta, Year Up Graduate and AT&T Employee

When 20-year-old Jenny Acosta decided to get involved with Year Up, she knew she wanted to make positive strides in her career.

“I wanted a better life, and I wanted to get a head start on my career,” she said.

Today, after interning with AT&T for six months, she works full-time at the company as an administrative assistant, while continuing her education at the University of North Texas at Dallas. Acosta looks back fondly on what she learned during her time with Year Up and throughout her AT&T internship.

“I learned so many valuable lessons along the way – never be shy, and always network and make connections.”

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Jenny Acosta, Year Up Graduate and AT&T Employee

Genesis Najera, Year Up Graduate and AT&T Employee

Genesis Najera, 21, knew the targeted learning tracks at Year Up were an opportunity to differentiate herself from her peers.

“I didn’t want to be like every other student who goes to class and then goes home,” she said. “I wanted to be involved in something that would benefit my future and benefit me – professionally and mentally.”

The business fundamentals, sales and IT curriculum offered by Year Up also gave Genesis confidence she was on a path to success. Today, as a business administration major at Miami Dade College and AT&T employee, Genesis says Year Up boosted her confidence and learn to take risks.

“Year Up helped me to become more open minded. I learned that there are so many opportunities out there that may come your way, but it’s up to you to take those risks. I am forever grateful to Year Up for this experience.”

1 $202 million of this funding was provided by AT&T, and $13 million was provided through the AT&T Foundation.

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Genesis Najera, Year Up Graduate and AT&T Employee

Damiria Allen, Year Up Graduate and WarnerMedia Employee

Damiria Allen, 23, is a native of Atlanta, GA. When she learned about Year Up from a family friend, she “knew (it) would be a life changer and something I wanted – but also needed – to do.”

As part of her Year Up experience, she interned at WarnerMedia and further refined the skills and knowledge she was learning in the classroom. 

“My internship at WarnerMedia was incredible. At first, I thought it was going to be extremely hard. I honestly didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “But, after getting the proper training and knowledge from my team, it was all worth it in the end.”

After finishing the Year Up program, Damiria moved into a full-time role at WarnerMedia as a security operation center analyst. She monitors networks for suspicious activity – a role where she leans on both hard- and soft-skills learned through her Year Up experience.

Looking back, Damiria shares the most valuable lesson she learned during Year Up – “begin with the end in mind and trust the process.”

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Damiria Allen, Year Up Graduate and WarnerMedia Employee

Melanie Sanchez, Year Up Graduate and AT&T Employee

Melanie Sanchez, 21, knew she wanted to experience working in a corporate environment. Through Year Up, she learned that with hard work and dedication, anything – including corporate career she imagined – was possible.

“It really taught me a great worth ethic and I learned how to communicate,” Melanie explained. “I blossomed from a 20-year-old young woman to a 21-year-old powerful woman all within one year.”

Now, after having completed her Year Up program, Melanie is working in Compton, CA as an integrated solutions consultant within AT&T’s Mobility & Entertainment organization.    

“It was super challenging, but nothing I couldn’t handle,” Melanie said. “There were moments when I wanted to give up, but the motivation that the staff gave us was immense. I am extremely thankful for Year Up and the amazing managers and senior project managers I met during my internship.”

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Melanie Sanchez, Year Up Graduate and AT&T Employee