Creating Brighter Futures In Partnership With Urban Alliance

5-Minute ReadUPDATED: May 10, 2021


Creating Brighter Futures In Partnership With Urban Alliance

At Rocket Companies®, we know that we can only be successful when the communities in which we operate are thriving. That’s why we’re focused on a For More Than ProfitSM approach – meaning, when our business does well, we have an obligation to reinvest in our communities. A great example is our partnership with Urban Alliance.

Urban Alliance is a national youth development nonprofit organization providing high school students with employment skills and experience that builds pathways toward economic self-sufficiency through mentoring and paid internships.

Their flagship High School Internship Program (HSIP) prepares seniors for the next step of their academic and/or professional career through individualized post-high school planning and partnerships with a variety of organizations and schools in several major cities.

They have a 24-year track record of improving post-high school outcomes for the students that go through their program – 100% of UA students graduate high school and over 90% are accepted to college.

We knew this incredible program could provide Detroit students with the opportunity to develop the critical skills they’d need for future success, so we joined other funders, including the Skillman Foundation, to bring Urban Alliance to Detroit in 2018. In addition to funding the program, Rocket Companies® agreed to become the anchor employer for Urban Alliance students.

The Pilot Program

In 2018, UA launched their flagship HSIP employment model in Detroit with a pilot group of 40 students from the Breithaupt Career and Technical Center, Osborn High School and Randolph Career and Technical Center. The students in this program were provided with:

  • A 9-month paid internship (part time during the school year and full time during the summer)
  • Intensive job and life skills training, which consists of 4 – 6 weeks of preemployment training followed by 9 months of weekly skill-building workshops
  • One-on-one mentoring from a business professional and UA’s program coordinators
  • Post-high school planning support
  • Lifelong college and career assistance

The program was a big success, with participants learning a variety of new professional and soft skills in various business areas and companies within Rocket Companies®, all of which helped support their future career objectives – 75% planned to enroll in a 2- or 4-year college, 15% planned to pursue full- or part-time employment and 10% planned to enroll in a continued training program post-HSIP.

An Even Bigger Impact

We’re happy to report that we exceeded program expectations during our second year partnering in this program. UA’s goal was to onboard 70 economically disadvantaged youth over a 2-year period. They surpassed that goal by welcoming 100 interns into the program. Over 2 years, Rocket Companies® welcomed 60 interns, with another 28 interns working at local nonprofits, 20 interns at Bank of America and one at Strategic Community Partners. 

Alondra B. is one of the 23 students interning at Rocket Companies® and works with Rocket Mortgage® on the Client Relations team. Alondra said the experience has not only helped build her confidence but expanded her idea about what to expect from her future.

“This internship has opened doors for me that I didn’t know existed. It made me realize I want to pursue college. Experiencing my own success and being around people who are successful themselves has encouraged me to get my own degree because I now know that I’m capable of it.” 

Urban Alliance has not only been great for students, but also for team members who have stepped up to become volunteer mentors. During our pilot year, former team member and Director of State and Local Government Affairs Jason Headen was awarded “Mentor of the Year” by Urban Alliance.

Jason is a former Detroit Public Schools student, so the experience for him came full circle. “Having a mentor and real work experience at 17 – 18 years old is invaluable, and I wanted all of them to take advantage of that."

In his speech to that year’s UA interns, he said, “This is only the beginning of what you can do … because you are wonderful, amazing students from the city of Detroit.”

Responding With A Sense Of Urgency During COVID-19

During the COVID-19 global crisis, millions of people lost their jobs as businesses were shuttered and residents were ordered to shelter in place. Our UA interns felt the impact as the majority of our students come from low-income communities which were profoundly impacted by the crisis.

We continued to support our UA interns with paid internships during COVID-19. This was critical since 80% of students participating in the program contribute their earnings to household expenses.

We also discovered that one out of three of the interns in the Detroit UA HSIP program did not have computers or internet access at home. This was especially problematic as social distancing practices required team members and interns to work remotely.

To make sure our UA interns were supported, the Rocket Community FundSM permanently donated 20 laptops to our UA interns so they’d be able to continue completing both schoolwork and projects for their internships. They also worked with students’ families to ensure they could enroll in Comcast’s Internet Essentials program. 

Our UA interns were not alone in feeling the impact of limited technology and connectivity. Because Detroit has the lowest rate of internet connectivity in the U.S., many students have been left out of online learning.

The Rocket Community FundSM and the Gilbert Family Foundation recently committed $2 million to provide high-speed internet and computer tablets to Detroit Public School Community District students and their families as part of the Connected Futures initiative.

This investment will help bridge the gap of this digital divide and create equity and stability in Detroit now and for years to come.

Urban Alliance Remote Program For 2021

We renewed our partnership with Urban Alliance for 2021. This year, the Rocket Community FundSM is supporting 40 Detroit high school seniors with remote internships through July.

Each intern has a direct team member mentor, and many interns are supporting team members and leaders who have been involved with the UA program in previous years. Of the 40 interns, 15 are spread across our technology teams.

We’re committed to ensuring that our UA interns and all Detroit students are supported with the resources, skills and training they need to build a stable future. We are excited for how our partnership will grow, supporting students with the essential skills, professional relationships and career readiness to build foundations that will last a lifetime.

Visit the Rocket Community Fund page to learn more about our community efforts.