The Opportunity Network's Fellows program is an intensive, six-year program designed to equal the playing field for high-achieving, underserved high school and college students by creating access for them to career opportunities, professional networks and competitive colleges. Opportunity Network (OppNet) believes that influential networks are essential ingredients for success not emphasized in career development programs for youth, so we take an innovative approach by underscoring the power of personal connections and professional relationships as vital complements to skills and experience. Through interaction with executives, intensive networking training, coursework in careers, internships and college counseling, our students dramatically change the course of their futures.
Each year, 60 high school sophomores in New York City public schools are selected to join OppNet Fellows following a rigorous, selective application process. Applicants are assessed on their transcript, school recommendation, written essays and interviews. Admitted students are academically high-achieving -- often at the top of their class -- and lack access to professional networks.
From 10th-12th grade, OppNet Fellows participate in weekly Classroom Series focusing on career exploration, networking training and professional etiquette. Sessions feature executives from a wide array of corporations and organizations, who teach about their jobs through case studies; other workshops focus on critical career-building skills and the keys to developing a lifelong professional network. In the spring of senior year, Fellows complete our College Transition curriculum, a semester's worth of workshops focusing on the academic, social and practical skills needed to be successful in campus life. The Classroom Series is capped with a week-long College Transition Boot Camp the summer after 12th grade.
Beginning in the spring of their junior year, Fellows receive intensive, one-on-one assistance with researching colleges, creating a well-balanced college list, editing and completing essays and applications, and navigating the complex world of financial aid and scholarships. Fellows visit a wide variety of college campuses on a week-long trip in February of junior year and network with college admissions officers. Students take free SAT prep classes from the spring of their junior year through to the fall of their senior year In the past two years, 100% of OppNet Fellows have matriculated at four-year colleges.
Fellows hold paid internships over five summers and leave the program with a robust resume of work experience and an extraordinary network of influential people across a broad spectrum of industries. Selected Fellows participate in fully-funded enrichment programs in the summer before 12th grade, including Carleton College Summer Writing Program, the Cooper Union Summer Research Internships Program, Experiment in International Living, Skidmore Pre-College Program, Smith College Science and Engineering Program, and the Weill Cornell Medical College Youth Scholars Program. Fellows participate in summer internships a 50+ organizations, including: Accenture, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Museum of Natural History, Apax Partners, Apollo Theater Foundation, Columbia Presbyterian, Deutsch Inc., Deloitte, Grey Inc., HBO, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Legal Aid Society, Morgan Stanley, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NASA Goddard Flight Center, Office of the Mayor of New York, Port Authority, Random House, The River Project , Rockefeller University, Time Warner, Tommy Hilfiger, Virgin USA, Weber Shandwick, and WNYC.
During four years of college, students are required to meet academic standards and attend workshops and networking events over winter and summer breaks. Fellows receive multiple check-in phone calls a semester, monitoring academic and professional progress. Students are paired with upperclassmen mentors, who share their experience and provide guidance from a peer level. During the winter and summer workshop series, Fellows reflect on progress made in college and refine professional goals, based on their evolving interests. They continue to build their networks, by meeting professionals at OppNet events, on campus and at their internships.
After six years of OppNet Fellows, students graduate with a college degree from a world-class institution, five summers' worth of meaningful enrichment and internship experiences and a network of professional contacts -- all of which set them up for the successful career they always had the aptitude for, but lacked the connections to achieve.
Student X was raised in East New York, Brooklyn, a deprived neighborhood with low education completion rates. A dedicated student, she saw the effects entrenched poverty had on her peers and became determined to fight it. As an OppNet Fellow, student X interned at the law firm Vinson & Elkins, after which she decided that a law career was the best method for her to follow her passion. Subsequent summers were spent at the Brooklyn DA's office and the Innocence Project.
Through OppNet, Student X gained admission to an elite NESCAC college in Boston, where she studied psychology and wrote her senior thesis on the effects of incarceration rates on low-income urban neighborhoods. In 2012, she was admitted to a top-five ranked law school in New York City, where she is currently studying for a joint degree in law and public policy.
Student Y grew up herding yak on her family's farm in Tibet before fleeing to a refugee camp in India in search of education and freedom. At nine years old, she attended school for the first time, in India, and learned to read and write. Five years later, student Y arrived in the United States with no knowledge of English and began high school in Brooklyn. She quickly rose to the top of her class and became an OppNet Fellow in her junior year. Through OppNet, she met professionals who fueled her interest in education and international development, leading to internships at the East Harlem School and the Trace Foundation, as well as studying abroad for a summer in China.
In 2010, Student Y gained admission to a top women's liberal arts college in New England, where she is majoring in Asian Studies and minoring in Anthropology. In high school, she served as a translator for adults at her school, a task she continues to do in her local area in college. She is spending the next semester studying abroad again in China and plans to pursue a career in international NGOs that work toward Tibetan causes.
Student Z grew up in the Fordham section of The Bronx and yearned to learn and take advantage of what the world had to offer but had no idea where to start. With the support and guidance from The Opportunity Network, student Z became the first in his family to reach junior year of high school and the first student in his Bronx high school's history to be admitted to the Ivy League. Interested in a range of industries, he spent his summers interning at NASA's Goddard Space Center, the I Have a Dream Foundation and the Brooklyn District Attorney's office. He also studied abroad in Japan, which enriched his major in East Asian Studies. Student Z graduated from his Ivy League university in May of 2012 and became the first OppNet alumnus to be hired by our organization and joined us as our College Success Program Assistant -- a very gratifying validation of our work.