After working with Big Brother and Big Sisters, Gerald Chertavian knew he wanted to help out underprivileged teenagers and young adults. He just needed to figure out a way to get there full-time. After graduating from Harvard Business School, Chertavian began working on Wall Street. In 1993 he co-founded Conduit Communications. After five years in charge, during which the company enjoyed steady growth, Conduit was sold, and Chertavian directed his full attention to helping others.
In 2000, Chertavian founded Year Up, a one-year training and education program offered to low-income youths between the ages of 18 and 24. Year Up is designed to give these underprivileged young adults the tools they need to compete in the modern, technologically advanced workforce. The nonprofit company has locations in Atlanta, Boston, Providence, New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle (opening soon). Within four months of graduation, 85 percent of Year Up graduates are placed in positions averaging at least $15 per hour.
For his work, Chertavian has been featured in Time, Business Week, and The New York Times, among other publications. He spoke with us today:
Why did you get involved with helping inner-city young adults? Why leave your work on Wall Street?
I had been a Big Brother for about 27 years, so it was through the Big Brother program that I got to see, very closely, the need that many of our young adults face in getting into the mainstream of this country. I got to see, up front, how talented and motivated my brother and his family were. But he still didn’t have enough to get into the mainstream.
This lead me to me write my essays to get into Harvard Business School about a program that will allow these young adults into the mainstream of America. Eventually I was able to make good on these essays when I founded Year Up.
Are you a good man? Why or why not?
I like to give myself grades along a set of criteria: as a father, husband, worker, family member, and friend. It’s important to honestly assess if you like the grades you give yourself. Rather than characterize myself as good or bad, I’ve been happy with the grades I’ve given myself. This doesn’t mean I’m satisfied, but I’ve been happy with how I’ve done.
What makes a good man, in your eyes?
Certainly I’d say the whole set of characteristics around character are very important. Integrity. I’ve been talking about your ability to do what you say you’re going to do in a manner of integrity—the values one ascribes to. Are you living the values you’ve set for yourself? Are your actions consistent to your words?
Assessing the roles you play and to be successful in each of those roles. If I was a great worker but not a great father or husband, I’d find it hard to classify that as a good man. A good man is well rounded and takes responsibility for the various roles that he plays.
Who has been the ultimate good man in your life?
I was very fortunate to have a father that set some very clear role models in terms of working hard and having integrity—a willingness to put in the effort required to be successful in a manner that kept your integrity and honesty. He was eminently respectful in treating my late mother. In my mind, he played his roles well in passing those values onto children. Hard work and integrity.
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