At Genesys Works, our mission is to provide pathways to career success for high school students in underserved communities through skills training, meaningful work experiences, and impactful relationships.
Our proven model not only changes the future trajectory of students’ lives, but also has a ripple effect in their families, communities, companies, and society at large.
Last year, as an Executive Director who had just taken the reins of Genesys Works Chicago, I was asked to provide a quote for the Annual Impact Report. I shared that “we look forward to increasing our scale and impact, especially in creating middle-skilled talent that’s ready for the workplace and ongoing learning.” No one could have guessed that just a few weeks later, I would be working closely with my team and our Board of Directors to pivot our model so our Young Professionals could work from home and we could navigate a situation fraught with uncertainty.
2020 was a challenging year for everyone. Here in Chicago, the most segregated major metro area in the nation, the pandemic only highlighted the racial and financial disparity between our neighborhoods. As an organization, we serve the South and West sides of this City. And we needed to be there for the students who trusted us with their college and career trajectory. But not just our students, but Chicago communities, too. Over the past ten years, our program has helped put more than 10 million dollars in the hands of the young people we have served—an investment that bolsters families, schools, and neighborhoods.
“Genesys Works aligns perfectly with my mission to be a change agent for students and families; fostering experiences that help students become the best version of themselves, positioning them to also be agents of change within their families, within our school, within their communities, and beyond. The ripple effect of that change is powerful and undeniable.”
– April Weathers, School Counselor, Robert Lindblom Math and Science Academy
The Genesys Works model is intensive, and it garners real, lasting change not just for our Young Professionals but for the schools they attend and the communities in which they live. After attending classes in the morning, our Young Professionals report to work each afternoon to gain real-world work experience and meaningfully contribute to corporate teams.
Genesys Works Young Professionals don’t just grow individually through their internships through gaining a professional skillset; their newfound confidence also radiates outward to inspire future Genesys Works interns to broaden their horizons.
As April Weathers, a School Counselor at Robert Lindblom Math and Science Academy (LMSA), shared, “Students join Genesys Works seeking an opportunity for themselves and in that process become something greater. They become role models and examples that ignite positive change not only for themselves but for so many others. Younger students see Genesys Works Young Professionals and aspire to become Young Professionals themselves.”
As a School Counselor at LMSA for over a decade, April has seen Genesys Works’ program empower more than forty students in her community. As each of these Young Professionals grows in our program, the ripple effect of their growth inspires others to do the same, contributing to lasting change year after year.
“I knew that I wanted to get ahead in life and that Genesys Works would be the program to propel me to have greater opportunity. My story is 10-fold, 30-fold, 50-fold in my neighborhood, and in the next neighborhood, and in the next. It’s not just a small group of people that are feeling this impact. It’s important to present opportunities and let people know ‘I believe in you’.”
– Dream Cannon, Class 11 Young Professional, Ten35, Senior at LMSA
One of the many Young Professionals April Weathers watched our program empower is Dream Cannon, a current senior at Robert Lindblom Math and Science Academy (LMSA) and a Genesys Works Marketing Intern at Ten35. As a high school junior, Dream began contemplating her next steps for the future. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do something to impact my community,” she shared.
Then, a friend working as an Accounting intern with Genesys Works suggested Dream consider joining our program. She reached out to her counselor, April, who encouraged Dream to apply. “Ms. Weathers told me she thought it would be a great opportunity for me. She said she wanted to open me up to new opportunities,” Dream recalls.
Dream was accepted to our program and began her Genesys Works journey in eight weeks of skills training during the summer before her senior year. She learned technical skills in Information Technology and transferable skills, like professional communication and networking.
“When I first started in skills training, I felt overwhelmed. But now I look back, and I’m so proud of all I accomplished, and I know it’s because of those experiences that I’m where I am now. I now have a forever home at Ten35. I also have contacts at other companies, like Accenture, and my professional network has grown so much,” she shared.
Now, as Dream looks forward to her future, she sees herself using her skill set to give back, creating an even more significant impact in her community. “In five years, I see myself as a college graduate taking over the community organization I work with now and advancing the goals of my mentors and the people who inspired me to get involved. Genesys Works will help me achieve those goals because they gave me ample resources and connections to help me feel prepared.”
“Now that I look back, one of the most impactful ways Genesys Works helped me is that they gave me direction. And, not only did they give me direction, but they continued to support me throughout my journey. I went from a person that had no academic aspirations after high school to thinking about college, my future, what to do with my life, and the path I was going to take to get there.”
– Odalys Lara, Fund Accountant at William Blair
One of Genesys Works’ many ripple effects in the Chicago community is the lasting impact of our program alumni. Take Odalys Lara, for example, a Class 7 alumnae and Fund Accountant at William Blair.
As a senior at Marie Curie High School, Odalys joined Genesys Works aiming to find direction for her future career. As a Young Professional, Odalys joined her Class 7 peers in gaining eight weeks of professional skills training in preparation for her yearlong internship at William Blair. There, she gained real-world experience as a part of the Trade Settlement team.
But, the benefits of her internship continued long after her high school graduation. Genesys Works empowered Odalys as she applied to colleges and went on to earn her bachelor’s degree at Saint Xavier University. While in college, Odalys continued working as a Genesys Works intern at William Blair and was offered a full-time position upon graduating.
Now, as a Fund Accountant at William Blair and an MBA student at DePaul University, Odalys gives back to her community as a member of the Genesys Works Chicago Board of Directors. “As a product of Genesys Works, I believe in the program. I feel a responsibility to give back to my community and give others the opportunities that were given to me.”
“Diverse teams make better teams. In our experience with Genesys Works interns, we’ve found they offer a unique perspective that drives our work forward. It’s also an incredible opportunity for managers to build meaningful relationships outside of the networks.”
– Anna Currin, Manager - Employee and Community Impact, Okta for Good
In just over a decade in Chicago, Genesys Works has expanded our impact to serve not just more students, but also more companies looking for innovative solutions to achieve their business goals. We’ve supplied over 50 leading companies with a robust pipeline of gifted, diverse talent to fill critical entry-level positions, freeing up more seasoned talent to focus on other pressing initiatives.
After Okta began their partnership with Genesys Works Bay Area in 2014, they quickly realized the positive impact of additional interns and expanded their collaboration to Genesys Works Chicago. “Genesys Works interns have been an incredible asset across teams,” shared Anna Currin, the Manager of Employee and Community Impact at Okta for Good. “Not only do they produce good work, but they shine a light on how we can improve our programs. Over time, we’ve altered our internship program to expand the workload and to bring on interns across other teams and regions.”
While our interns contribute to Okta’s teams daily, their hard work reaches beyond their direct coworkers to spark inspiration in others hoping to break into the technology field. At Okta’s Tech Pathways Week, a program dedicated to introducing underrepresented and underemployed community members to careers at Okta, Anna observed that Genesys Works interns motivated others to pursue their career goals, too. “We love sharing the successes of our interns with the attending participants of Okta’s Tech Pathways Week. Their hard work and accomplishments are so inspiring to people looking to break into a new career. They show it’s possible!”