New program focused to help young people of color rise

Nov. 1—Mayo Clinic and the Rochester branch of the NAACP announced a program to address racial disparities on Monday. "Rise for Youth" will provide Black and under-represented students with four-week summer courses on leadership skills and training, geared toward careers in health care and science.

Additionally, Mayo Clinic and the NAACP will host virtual events in November to share more about ways to achieve equity and the Rise for Youth program, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4.

Walé Elegbede, president of the Rochester branch of the NAACP, said Rochester and other Minnesota areas can feel like "a tale of two cities" for people of color.

"If you're white, you're doing really well," he said. "If you're Black, or Hispanic, or Native American — maybe not. ... We're leaving a lot of untapped potential."

Much of the work and funding, so far, has gone into a four-week summer program for two student groups: "Rise Up," which is for 20 post-secondary students, and "Rise High," for 20 high school juniors and seniors.

Applications for the Rise Up and Rise High programs will go live on the Rochester NAACP's website Monday.

The summer programming was intended to work around a typical student's school calendar, said Dr. Anjali Bhagra, the medical director for the Office of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.

"We want our youth to have the mental bandwidth, the time and energy to invest in this," she said.

Mayo Clinic's team is focused on a "robust, pluripotent" curriculum, Bhagra said.

While a news release about the programming said it was geared toward health care and science, Bhagra said the courses are about "talent development," including emotional intelligence, leadership skills, self-presentation and negotiation.

"The goal is to maximize human potential," she said.

While Mayo will welcome students with an interest in healthcare, the clinic works with plenty of other industries, including business, data and law, she added.

The Rochester NAACP and several community partners, including members of Barbershop Talk and the Diversity Council, will select the students in each program.

Students will submit applications detailing how the summer programming would benefit them, Elegbede said, ensuring that "this program really reaches students who have been forgotten."

According to a Minnesota Employment and Economic Development report, there is still an employment gap between white college graduates and racial minorities in the U.S.

While white and Asian graduates were likely to be employed full-time, other racial minorities were more likely to find jobs either part-time or seasonally during the year.

The difference held through at every education and age level.

The virtual events will focus on equity and pathways to success from Mayo Clinic staff, other business leaders, a youth panel and more.

Elegbede hopes the combination of events and summer courses will light a fire under other diversity-focused groups — particularly ones that promised to focus on racial justice in the last few years, but have made few, if any, changes to their modus operandi.

"This should be a call to all other organizations," Elegbede said. "Everybody needs to be in, so that we can rise up together."