Year Up’s mission to close the Opportunity Divide is grounded in the commitment to create a more equitable nation, a nation that provides all of its citizens with an opportunity to reach their potential. We strive toward this not only through our service to young adults, but also in the way we identify, develop, and engage talent who collectively achieve top results. We believe in the power of people to create change, at an individual as well as a systems level. Recruiting and engaging individuals who believe in the value of people and their potential, are ready to engage in the movement for social and economic justice, and are committed to an environment that is diverse and inclusive, is critical to our organization and broader impact.

We value both diversity and cultural competency

Year Up operates with the belief that diverse and culturally aware groups increase value in educational and work settings by generating creative, effective, and inclusive thinking and action. Therefore, in building a strong staff team, Year Up has a focus on both diversity and cultural competency.

Cultural Competencies such as self-awareness of one’s own culture(s) and history, a curiosity and understanding of others’ cultures, and the ability to move beyond awareness to positive actions are core to our work with students and peers at Year Up. Strong cultural competency skills allow us to effectively respond to the challenges and opportunities posed by the diversity of our organization and stakeholders. In addition to engaging and learning from each other, we value understanding the history of the Opportunity Divide and how it shows up in our educational system and workplaces of today; knowing that this knowledge increases our capacity to support Year Up students as well as engage and influence our external community.

Year Up aspires to be a workplace known for attracting & cultivating diverse talent. A diverse staff team among multiple dimensions of diversity enriches our community by providing the environment for new ways of thinking, self-reflection, and learning. As Year Up strives to prepare students for a variety of professional workplaces, exposing students to a diverse staff creates the opportunity for them to be in relationship with individuals they identify with on multiple levels, learn from through difference, and develop strong mentor relationships that prepare students for navigating the work environment.

Year Up is also intentional about attracting and fostering the leadership of individuals who share backgrounds of our student population (see Year Up Identity Statement). We have seen that staff who are themselves from historically under-represented racial & ethnic backgrounds or under-served communities have a profound student impact in modeling successful career paths, resiliency in overcoming obstacles, and reinforcing the belief that success is within reach.

Long term impact

When embedding the knowledge, skills, and value of diversity and cultural competency into Year Up’s organizational culture and systems, there are several areas that will be especially impactful for our long term success. The leadership and decision makers within Year Up must embody the cultural competencies and the team itself must be reflective of the diversity of our student population given their positions of power and influence and their responsibility to align our strategy and resources with Year Up’s mission. It is also important for us to ensure that we have talent systems in place to develop high potential talent at every level of the organization and among multiple dimensions of diversity to cultivate engagement and support retention of a diverse and culturally aware staff team. Lastly, the engagement of Year Up Alumni as staff, board members, community & corporate partners is critical to our credibility and program effectiveness.

In our engagement with the broader external community, we also see long term value in the work we do to bring together alums, community partners, corporate partners and others as a diverse network working together to close the Opportunity Divide.



Dimensions of Diversity

Aspects of identity, such as race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender/gender identity, or physical functioning, age, cognitive function, that are group-based. Some aspects of identity result from birth (e.g., sex). Others result from circumstances or experiences that a person has little or no control over (e.g., accident resulting in physical disability). Still other aspects may be a matter of choice (e.g., profession or political affiliation).

Some dimensions of diversity, or aspects of a person’s identity, may be visible or obvious to others, while others may not. Individuals may choose to reveal or conceal some aspects of their identity that are less visible, though people experience different degrees of freedom to make that choice based on real or perceived consequences of revealing some aspects of their identity.

Cultural Competency

A lifelong process of developing the knowledge, values, skills and will that help one to:

  • develop self-awareness and an understanding of one’s own culture(s) and history, especially when the history of one’s own culture is invisible, not known, or not widely shared;
  • understand other cultures;
  • facilitate understanding among people of different cultures;
  • move beyond awareness to engage and confront inconsistencies, biases, and unconscious assumptions of one’s own and other cultures;
  • take action to ensure fairness and access, and correct for the results of historic inequities and ongoing inequities.

Cultural competency encompasses all dimensions of diversity. When applied to organizations, cultural competency involves building the knowledge, values, skills and will of individuals and also manifesting the knowledge, values, skills through organizational culture, expectations, policies, structures, systems and processes. Cultural competency involves what’s in the heads and hearts of individuals, how people interact with one another, how we create our organizations, and how we establish norms and standards.