Gerald Chertavian is the CEO and Founder of Year Up, a non-profit organization that provides intensive professional education to urban young adults. His organization was recently recognized by Fast Company and The Monitor Group as one of the top 25 organizations in the nation using business excellence to engineer social change. Prior to starting Year Up, Chertavian co-founded Conduit Communications and served as the head of marketing at Transnational Financial Services in London. He has been an active member of the Big Brother mentoring program since 1985, and was awarded New York’s outstanding member in 1989. He was also awarded the 2003 Social Entrepreneurship Award by the Manhattan Institute and the 2005 Freedom House Archie R. Williams, Jr. Technology Award. A graduate of Bowdoin College and Harvard Business School, Chertavian was born and raised in Lowell, MA.
Question: If you could sit down with anybody, who would it be?
Gerald Chertavian: Yeah. I would like to sit down with Martin Luther King and try to understand the thoughts he was having at that point around grassroots movements around civil rights, kind of seeing how he thought about galvanizing people, how he saw that movement. So I think to sit down to see how someone thought about and helped to lead a movement, because of -- and not that I would try to emulate that; I think our students will be the people to lead Year Up to the future; our graduates are the ones who are my heroes and the ones who will run this organization. I happen to be a steward for a very short period of time. But I'm not that person.
But if I can understand how do these movements form, because what we do is about economic and social justice. It is the next step in civil rights. Having an opportunity nation is deeply important to maintain your democracy and your civilized society in this country. So when you think about the continuation of civil rights, it is about opportunity; it is about economic justice; it is about social justice. And Year Up is one element of that. We kneel on the shoulders of those before us, who risked much, much more to accomplish what they accomplished. And so I'd be deeply interested to learn from them, to sit down and understand what they saw -- how they saw this go forward -- and perhaps what we could learn to help this next step in civil rights move forward in this country.
Recorded on: October 29, 2009