Who are the students “soaring” through Macy’s Herald Square flagship store as of late? The teenagers – 20 in total – are scholars from the prestigious Eagle Academy (EA) for Young Men in the Bronx, New York.
In October 2017, Macy’s launched a truly unique job-and college-readiness partnership with the New York City all-boys public school. Every other month, the same young men travel by subway to 34th Street to meet with members of Macy’s Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Strategy team, colleagues from diverse backgrounds, and select external partners.
“Some of these young men have lived in New York City their entire lives without ever having traveled from the Bronx to midtown,” said Aaron Barnette, director, Strategic Partnerships at EA.
These rising stars have been gearing up for success since joining Eagle, and in many ways the odds – and statistics – have been stacked against them. There are six Eagle Academy locations – one in each New York City borough and one in Newark, New Jersey. Each of the locations were strategically opened in neighborhoods with schools that have been identified as pipelines to the prison system, Barnette explained. Now, these change agents are writing new narratives for themselves. The only statistics they plan to be a part of include the academies’ anticipated 95 percent graduation rate, as well as its 100 percent college acceptance rate.
And Macy's is helping to make sure this happens. In their time with us, the students have learned valuable soft skills that often aren't taught in schools – skills about dressing, behavior, and networking strategies. The goal: to provide them with their first glimpse of the professional world and to show them that the sky is indeed, the limit. Here's a look at what the program included:
Macy’s sponsored a day-long event at EA's Bronx location for more than 150 students, where powerful talks from a total of 75 authors, mentors, athletes, and clergy about integrity, leadership, and success were held alongside a lunch, awards program, and basketball tournament.
Created specifically for the program, this workshop was conducted by Milo Romero, associate manager, D&I at Macy’s. Romero put the teens through a S.W.O.T. analysis – a technique often used by companies to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Each learned to answer these questions honestly: “What do you do better than anyone else?” and, “What do you need to improve about yourself?”
The Eagles returned for their final landing for an early dinner on the 13th floor at Macy’s, alongside the offices of Macy's CEO and senior executives. Before meeting with Hawthorne dinner, the students participated in an etiquette lesson taught by Kristin Vaughan, D&I specialist. With these skills, they can confidently attend their first formal business lunches, banquets or ceremonies – beginning with prom.
With Bill Hawthorne, SVP, Diversity & Inclusion Strategies, the students discussed “decades and decades of negative stereotypes” they can’t control. Hawthorne engaged the students in a discussion about “controlling the controllables” by setting their own standards of excellence, projecting their best images daily, and establishing goals.
Kristyn Doar-Page, VP of Diversity & Inclusion, says the D&I team developed the partnership for the following reason: “Success hinges so much on inclusion, exposure, access, and opportunity. We wanted to expose them these students to our industry, our colleagues, and our company in a way that wasn’t just a one-time event,” Page said. “We envisioned an impactful series that forged a sense of community with these impressive young men, while preparing them for the future. It has been as remarkable and rewarding for all of us who had the pleasure of engaging with them.”
With the support of Macy’s, the students will confidently enter the professional world, shining bright along the way.