Sponsored Content brought to you by: Bank of America
Author: Carla Molina, SVP, External Communications & Austin Market Executive, Bank of America
As a nation, we have a fundamental belief in the American dream. If you work hard enough, anything is possible. The youth of our country will one day be our future leaders, which is why Bank of America invests so significantly in education programs that support and develop a strong workforce.
Today, our youth looks more diverse than it has in years past. According to the latest Census data, Texas is now a majority minority state, with 40.2% being Hispanic/Latino and growing at a faster pace than other ethnicities. Despite the tremendous growth, strong trajectory and opportunity with our young and diverse population, diverse communities still face many obstacles, including disparities in opportunities, education and prospects for socioeconomic mobility
For example, a 2021 report documented unemployment amongst white Austinites at 3.4%, compared to 6% among Black Austinites and 4.1% among Hispanic Austinites.
As part of our commitment to help build pathways for students of color to become successful in their careers, Bank of America has made a $25 million investment in 21 higher education institutions across the country, including Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and community colleges. In Austin, the bank has invested $333,000 in university programs this year, including at Huston-Tillotson University, St. Edward’s University and The University of Texas.
With a particular focus on entrepreneurship and business education, grants for all three universities support young entrepreneurs and Black and Hispanic/Latino students, many of whom are from low-income families and the first in their families to go to college. Each program helps break down barriers and provides unique opportunities that will advance careers and fuel economic opportunity.
Bank of America has been a longstanding supporter of Huston-Tillotson, our only local HBCU and the oldest higher education institution in Austin, through grants, volunteerism and other support. This year, the bank was able to help the renowned institution establish the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CEI). Bank of America’s funding extends beyond university students, though, as the CEI will provide high-quality business and economic development assistance to existing small businesses, as well as nascent and future entrepreneurs in the Austin area. Specifically, the Center now plans to hire quality trainers and purchase equipment that will be used to launch a virtual venture capital lab in the space, providing students and entrepreneurs with hands-on experimental learning through internships with a venture fund, incubator or startup.
Similarly, the bank’s partnership with St. Edward’s University spans decades and goes beyond grant funding to provide support to low-income students from underrepresented backgrounds and enhance educational opportunities. Directed toward economic mobility and workforce development, the bank’s support builds career pathways for low-income students, students of color, first-generation college students, Pell-eligible students, College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) participants and The Bill Munday School of Business scholars. With more than 40% of its students eligible for federal Pell grants, the university’s success with low-income and first-generation students has garnered national recognition.
A portion of the recently awarded funding will support professional development and networking activities for St. Edward’s CAMP participants, including the purchase of two photo booths to provide professional headshots for students preparing for job interviews. The bank also participates in the university’s AACSB-accredited school of business’ mentoring program, in which team members from Bank of America’s Hispanic/Latino Organization for Leadership and Advancement (HOLA) employee network, including myself, are paired with St. Edward’s University undergraduate students.
The University of Texas at Austin Forty Acres Founders Program at the Herb Kelleher Entrepreneurship Center helps students establish product-market fit for their startup ideas and launch businesses from a position of strength. Designed to address racial, ethnic and women’s wealth gaps, the Forty Acres Founders Program creates an entrepreneurial pipeline that reflects the broader community. Bank of America Scholars from the program benefit from mentorship and additional opportunities the bank provides, such as its Breakthrough Lab.
Connecting people to meaningful employment requires deep public/private partnerships and collective expertise to prepare individuals for jobs that exist in our communities. By investing in programs to help diverse students achieve their dreams, we are helping provide opportunities for all individuals to be part of a more equitable workforce. We look forward to continued collaboration with our local education institutions and like-minded corporations, and we challenge more businesses to join us. Together, we can help build a stronger pipeline of diverse talent and fuel local economic growth.