Andrea Feingold's Favorite Year

April 17, 2009   Frances Denmark

Year Up program helps young adults develop job skills and find employment.

When Andrea Feingold left her job as co-head of the high-yield group at Newport Beach, California–based Pacific Investment Management Co. in 2001, she had two items on her agenda: to launch a Boston-based credit-specialist hedge fund firm with former Pimco colleague Ian O’Keeffe, and to play a significant role in a not-for-profit organization.

"Young people’s development particularly interested me," Feingold explains. And so after helping to set up Feingold O’Keeffe Capital eight years ago, she turned her attention to the mission of Year Up — a Boston-based group that sponsors yearlong intensive education and apprenticeship programs for young adults, ages 18 to 24, who could not otherwise afford postsecondary education or expect to get good jobs.

"I wanted to get involved and not just write a check," recalls Feingold. She set up a meeting with Gerald Chertavian, who had founded Year Up in October 2000 to close what he calls the "opportunity divide" by providing low-income, minority youth with skills, experience and support. The program combines job training, stipends, paid apprenticeships, college tuition and other support to help young adults attain self-sufficiency.

Feingold’s timing was perfect. Chertavian, a Harvard Business School graduate and former software entrepreneur, had only recently taken Year Up out of incubation at Boston-based private equity firm Alta Communications. The program, headquartered near Feingold O’Keeffe’s Boston Back Bay offices, graduated 22 students in its first class, in June 2001, "with seed capital from friends and family and people like Andrea," Chertavian says. Today its annual budget is $24 million, helped greatly by a recent $17 million fundraising drive, giving Year Up the beginnings of an endowment fund.

The program has sponsored more than 1,300 students and will support an additional 800 this year through a national network that includes sites in Boston; New York; Providence, Rhode Island; San Francisco; Washington; and, most recently, Atlanta. Year Up has about 80 corporate partners, and more than 85 percent of its graduates have gotten jobs that pay an average of $30,000 per year. More than half continue their college education after completing the Year Up program, often attending classes part-time and in the evenings. CVS Caremark, Fidelity Investments, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Staples and State Street Corp. are among the companies that have hired Year Up graduates.

Feingold had an immediate impact on Year Up by joining its national board as treasurer. Susan Meehan, director of finance and operations for the group, says she goes to the hedge fund manager for crucial guidance. "Given we’re a nonprofit trying to operate like a really well-run business, the business perspective that she brings is very helpful," Meehan says.

Feingold has also taken part in special projects, like the creation of an audit committee and an investment program, and she has been a mentor twice. Students, who must have a high school diploma or an equivalency degree to participate, often have serious problems that include past drug abuse, encounters with the law or single motherhood. Feingold helped one young woman in particular learn that such hurdles are not insurmountable. "Even though we came from different backgrounds," Feingold says, "I could see myself in her, and she could see herself in me."

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