Success of Braven program at Rutgers-Newark is easy to see — and should be inspirational to others

Does Braven, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering first-generation and other underrepresented college students, have impact?

Consider some key numbers connected to the program, which began serving Rutgers University – Newark in 2016:

  • 83% identify as people of color;
  • 67% come from low-income households;
  • 58% are first-generation students.

Then, there are these:

  • 238 earned bachelor’s degrees;
  • 96% are employed or enrolled in graduate school;
  • 76% are outearning their parents in their first jobs out of school.

And this: Compared with graduates nationally, Braven 2023 graduates of Rutgers-Newark were 24 percentage points more likely to have at least one internship during their college experience.

The impact of the program cannot be denied. So said key panelists at a recent event at Prudential Financial in Newark.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka joined business and academic leaders in the city and representatives from Braven to discuss how successful anchor partnerships can help prepare Newark students for successful careers.

Panelists highlighted the outcomes of the Rutgers-Newark Braven partnership, which has supported more than 1,600 students since it began in 2016, helping many land internships and jobs with New Jersey corporations and other employers in the city and beyond.

Titled “Empowering Students from College to Career: Anchor Partnerships Driving Change in Newark,” the event showcased how collaboration among key stakeholders can equip students with the skills, networks and experiences they need to thrive in competitive job markets or graduate school.

Baraka praised the work between Newark institutions and Braven, saying that efforts like these create a better city for all.

About Braven

Founded in 2013, Braven empowers promising, underrepresented young people — first-generation college students, students from low-income backgrounds, and/or students of color — with the skills, confidence, experiences and networks necessary to transition from college to strong first jobs or graduate school.

Braven is embedded within institutions of higher education and partners with employers to build cutting-edge career education into the undergraduate experience for low-income and/or first-generation college-goers and provides students with a network of supporters and a sense of belonging. Braven Fellows are persisting in college and achieving exciting levels of internship and job attainment.

“Tonight brings together key partners to share best practices, celebrate progress and explore new avenues for collective action,’’ he said. “By collaborating, we can guarantee that every college student has the opportunity to prosper.

“There’s so much more we can accomplish when we become collaborators or, in fact, co-conspirators.’’

The Braven program, which includes a 3-credit career acceleration course and additional post-course career support, will be required for all Rutgers-Newark sophomores in the fall.

This summer, Rutgers-Newark and Braven are launching the Capitol Hill Summer Policy Internship with the Sheila Y. Oliver Center for Politics and Race in America, providing even more opportunities for students. For eight weeks, four Rutgers-Newark students will support a New Jersey congressperson in Washington, D.C., this summer.

Braven Newark Executive Director Samantha Crockett said these are opportunities that come from the program — and why so many are excited about it.

“The energy and commitment in the room are truly inspiring,” she said. “The partnership between Rutgers-Newark and Braven has been dedicated to developing Newark’s next generation of leaders, with 96% of fellows identifying as students of color and most hailing from low-income backgrounds or being first-generation college students. This support has been instrumental in helping them succeed.”

Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor praised the success of the school’s Braven program. She described the potential of students who are often overlooked because they lack the experiences and connections of those whose family members have attended college and found lucrative careers.

Partnerships between academia, business, city government and programs such as Braven can help close gaps, she said. They can also foster respect among future employers for the skills and knowledge students already possess, she said.

“The walls around opportunity are high and steep to climb, but the talent in our backyards is fearsome,’’ she said. “So many of our students didn’t begin on third base but, man, do they get to home plate. I’ll put them up against anybody.

“But, you can’t get to home plate unless someone opens the door, unless someone coaches you, unless someone recognizes you have a voice and listens to what you have to say, helps you say it, helps you feel like you belong and then lets you take over.’’

Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences – Newark Dean Jacqueline Mattis said she can always spot a student who has been through the Braven program.

“We talk about geniuses, but everyone has a genius,” she said. “Genius is just the spirit that animates you so that you can do good things in the world.

“Whether or not we kill that spirit or support that spirit is about the kind of things we’re talking about here. I can tell a Braven student in part because I can see their genius — it’s  the way they step up to the plate, not in arrogance, but in appreciation for the talents they have and for the opportunity to cross bridges they know they have the skills to cross.’’

Speakers at the event included Aimée Eubanks Davis, Braven’s founder and CEO, and industry leaders from Prudential Financial and Barclays, who shared their perspectives and highlighted opportunities for continued progress.