A new nonprofit that aims to fundamentally shift the traditional career path has its first Connecticut participant, with organizers eventually planning to branch out further into the Nutmeg State’s business and education worlds.
Rebecca Sheinman, 22, a 2012 graduate of Wilton High School, is one of 12 fellows in the first class of ServiceCorps, a New York City-based organization founded last year. The program helps high-achieving college graduates defer their job offers at select corporations while they complete a year of service. ServiceCorps also pays participants and covers their student loan costs during the fellowships.
The dozen fellows went through training sessions on June 20-25 at General Electric Co.’s Fairfield headquarters. GE and financial services giant Citi, also known as Citigroup Inc., are the biggest corporate partners working with ServiceCorps, and the first class of fellows are all planning to start their careers at those companies.
Sheinman is in the midst of a one-year assignment at Bottom Line, a Brooklyn, N.Y., nonprofit that provides guidance and mentoring to college students from low-income backgrounds. She is working as a special projects fellow, helping to create corporate partnerships so that Bottom Line students can land internships similar to one Sheinman did at Citi last summer. Next year, the 2016 graduate of the University of Michigan will begin work as a human resources analyst at Citi in New York.
Having traveled to 31 countries, Sheinman sees her bachelor’s degree in organizational psychology and work at Bottom Line converging to better serve Citi employees and prospective employees of all types.
“I am going to be able to connect a lot of different people,” she said.
The broadening of experience brings tangible and intangible benefits, Citi executives say.
“We are extremely proud of Rebecca and all of our ServiceCorps fellow,” said Susan Catalano, chief operating officer of Human Resources and Global Recruitment at Citi. “Through ServiceCorps, we believe that participants will gain valuable experience, both personal and professional, that will help them as they move forward in their careers.”
ServiceCorps helps young employees face “pressing issues” such as supplying cleaner and more consistent energy, poverty, climate change, healthcare, and transportation, according to Julie Grzeda, the Connecticut-based director of GE’s Global Leadership Programs and University Relations. GE benefits short-term and long-term from such education, she said.
GE recruits 11,000 students from colleges worldwide every year, according to Grzeda.
“Our company is driven to take on the world’s pressing needs,” she said. “It’s so important to think about how our careers impact the world.”
GE and Citi pay most of the money earned during the year of service with the non-profit entities paying the rest, Grzeda said. That includes 100 percent payment of college loans during the service year, according to ServiceCorps founder and CEO Matt Ronen.
“That (the loan repayments) is one of the five unique things about our program,” said Ronen. “My hope is that it catches on elsewhere. There are significant issues with college loan debt these days.”
Average college loan debt in Connecticut is the seventh highest in the nation at $29,750 as of 2014, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. That statistic prompted state Attorney General George Jepsen in March to issue the Student Loan Repayment Guide.
“In general … we advise students to be sure they understand their rights, responsibilities, and repayment options and carefully evaluate all options available to them when making important decisions about their student loans,” Jepsen’s communications director, Jaclyn Falkowski, said. She also said the attorney general's office has not vetted ServiceCorps and its loan repayment program.
Ronen said he is reaching out to several Hartford-area insurance companies and hoping to turn them into corporate partners, too.
GE’s Fairfield campus is scheduled to be vacant by the end of this year with the move of the company’s headquarters to Boston, so the site of next year’s ServiceCorps training “boot camp” is undetermined for now, Grzeda and Ronen said. GE is maintaining branch offices in Norwalk, however, so next year’s camp might still be held in Connecticut, they said.
“With GE in Boston and Citi in New York, Connecticut is a nice intersection for these young people,” said Grzeda, calling the week of training at Fairfield “fantastic.”
Grzeda said she met Ronen through Beth Comstock, GE’s chief marketing and commercial officer, who was named vice chair in August 2015. What Ronen calls his “pretty radical idea” of raising the importance of community service to a national ethic came through in their conversations over coffee, Grzeda said.
“It’s a mission that he’s passionate about,” she said.
GE and Citi both “really stepped up,” Ronen said of his corporate partners. “I cannot do this without them."