In The World: changing young people’s lives in New York
Elizabeth Comer works in Barclays’ Citizenship team and also volunteers with Beginning with Children – an education charity in New York City, US. She discusses the joy of working with children and young people – and why big companies “have a responsibility to the communities around them”.
I’m based in New York where I work as part of the Barclays International Citizenship team. I’m responsible for looking after governance and programming with our non-profit partners.
I’ve always had a real passion for philanthropy, for the community around me, and it was that passion that pushed me to get involved with Beginning with Children here in New York City.
Beginning with Children is a charity that colleagues from Barclays have supported through a mentoring program for the last 10 years. The foundation has set up a number of schools in Brooklyn, New York, in areas that are traditionally underserved. They give children the opportunity to work in smaller classes and receive a little more attention than they might get in mainstream education.
The schools take children from kindergarten all the way up to the eighth grade, and after that the students are filtered into public schools to complete their education. To help them make the transition into their new surroundings, Beginning with Children has set up a legacy network – and that’s where myself and my fellow Barclays colleagues come in.
Every Wednesday evening, we’ll meet up at the Barclays office in New York to provide mentorship and support to the children who have graduated into mainstream education. We cover a whole range of topics that are mainly dependent on the age of the students we are working with. Some years, I’ll be helping prepare kids for high school exams, and in others I’ll be providing guidance to older students who are applying to university.
Often, the students don’t have access to the support networks that we take for granted. So it’s about equipping them with the necessary life skills they need to get on. A lot of these kids don’t understand the concept of a salary, and of paying taxes, so we talk about things like financial literacy to make sure they are as prepared as possible for entering the working world.
I think as a society, we all have a responsibility to look after our youth. If we can give the right guidance to the young people around us, then it’s only going to benefit us all in the future. A lot of the problems we see today are because young people haven’t been impacted positively growing up – this scheme is a brilliant opportunity for us to make that difference that could change someone’s life.
Corporations have a responsibility to the communities around them, and Barclays understands that
It’s great to work for a company whose values align with your own, and Barclays has supported the initiative since day one. Not only do they partner with Beginning with Children, but they allow us to use Barclays’ offices to host the sessions every week. Corporations have a responsibility to the communities around them, and Barclays understands that.
One of the most amazing things about working with the programme is how much I personally learn from the students. As an adult, it’s easy to forget how much knowledge young people have – they’re wise beyond their years! They’re so goal-orientated, and they ask important questions about your career that make you stop and revaluate things you hadn’t considered before.
The most rewarding thing about the whole process is seeing the truly incredible results that are achieved by the mentees. Last year, 100% of our students were accepted into college. We were all so proud – and I think that shows how impactful the Beginning with Children legacy network is.