Year Up applicants must be 18-24 years old and have a high school diploma or GED. Many have some college credit but often were forced to drop out for financial reasons. Almost all have faced some type of adversity, including homelessness, foster care, drug abuse and teen pregnancy. And all want something more for themselves, they just haven't found the path to achieve it.
Year Up offers that path. But most prospective participants are skeptical at first. Graduate Bryan Goodson passed up his first opportunity to apply. "I thought it was too good to be true," he said. It's a sentiment Chertavian said he hears echoed again and again.
But so many young people do apply, only 1 in 5 applicants makes the cut. The admissions committee looks for motivation above anything else.
If getting in is tough, the program itself is tougher. Students sign a contract that lays out the expectations and consequences for not meeting those expectations. If you're one second late to class, you're docked money and points (which is why all the clocks at Year Up are digital). You can also be penalized for bad language, missing assignments or not dressing professionally, among other things. If you lose too many points, you're out of the program. Twenty-five percent of those who start, don't finish.
Students learn the technical skills they'll need for their internship, but they also spend a lot of time learning soft skills. In addition to being on time and dressing for success, they practice such things as how to shake hands and make eye contact, writing a professional email and perfecting an elevator pitch.
"Year Up fundamentally believes that you hire for skills but you fire for behavior," said Chertavian. "If you talk to many, many companies across the country today, they're not getting the professional skills and the customer service skills, and really the teamwork, reliability, problem solving, they're not getting those skills from many young adults coming out of even four-year college settings."
Those who make it through the six-month classroom boot camp are awarded an internship at one of 250 companies that partner with Year Up, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, JPMorgan Chase, American Express, Macy's, Novartis, Biogen, AT&T and CNBC's parent company, Comcast.