Perspectives: Driving Social Change

Gerald Chertavian

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Year Up
MBA 1992


“To put it simply, our focus since we launched in 2000 has been on jobs and education.”


From my perspective, there's really no greater blessing, and nothing more worthy, than to do work that is meaningful. In the past eight years since I started Year Up, I have never once considered it work. I always say, if you cut me open, I bleed urban young adults, and that is not going to change. It's a fortunate thing to know how you want to focus your life's work.

As a former software entrepreneur, I was pretty attuned to how to grow and expand a business.

Driving Social Change

My approach to Year Up's mission to prepare urban young adults for successful careers and higher education through an intensive, one-year education and apprenticeship program has always been based in pragmatism. Our model recognizes that these young adults need to get two things: skills and connections to make it into the professional world and pursue a post-secondary education. To put it simply, our focus since we launched in 2000 has been on jobs and education.


In my mind, the progress that we see today in social entrepreneurship and social enterprise is the next step in the civil rights movement. It stands on the shoulders of individuals who risked a great deal more than what we risk today to push forward on issues of economic and social justice in this country. And the way we're going to solve the challenges we face will be different also. In the past, government was the scale engine for nonprofits. Now, government is one of the players but we also have to recognize that private sector partnerships are equally important when it comes to growing and developing nonprofit organizations. The alliances of unusual suspects are fundamentally different—it's almost a new social contract that's being developed in this country around solving some of our most pressing challenges. I do believe it's going to be one of the ways that we can take this movement forward and hopefully have a significantly positive impact on our country.