Gerald Chertavian first met David Heredia, a 1o-year-old boy from the Dominican Republic, nearly 30 years ago; the relationship would prove to have lasting impact. Through a Big Brother program, Chertavian spent most of his Saturdays with the boy and his family in Rutgers Houses, one of New York City’s most dangerous housing projects at the time. “Talking with David and his four older brothers — seeing where they were starting from and what was in their grasp, listening to their dreams and hopes…that absolutely changed my life,” he says. Chertavian had a successful career on Wall Street and built a technology firm, which he and his partners sold for $83 million. But he never forgot Heredia and other low-income youths he met that weren’t part of the mainstream economy. So in 2000 he founded Year Up, a job training program for disadvantaged young adults that guides them into careers at large corporations.
In this first episode of our Big Bets series, Chertavian discusses the challenges he faces as he aspires to take Year Up from an organization that helps thousands of kids escape poverty to one that helps millions.
Since the original publication of this story, Gerald Chertavian, founder of Year Up, has become a NationSwell Council member.