Photographer: Ben Asen

I’m not big on formal ceremony, especially at buttoned-up New York charity shindigs, but last Friday morning was an exception – and it was exceptional. This was the (Em)Power Breakfast at the Pierre Hotel organized by the Young Women’s Leadership Network – a brilliant organization founded by New York dynamo Ann Rubenstein Tisch in 1996. YWLN gives girls and young women a shot at success they would not otherwise have.

The YWLN schools, affiliates and a College Bound Initiative benefit 10,000 students annually. Their programs are highly successful in helping at-risk youth reach their potential and attend college. In America 8% of low income young adults have a college degree. The five YWLN schools across New York City have a 100% college acceptance rate. 80% of graduating seniors are the first of their family to go to college. And at college, they achieve a four year degree at triple the rate of their peers. Talk about turbocharging the future.

I was privileged to be honored at the breakfast – as “The Man We Love” – along with Newsweek editor Tina Brown, Gilt Groupe founder Susan Lyne, and Seventeen editor-in-chief Ann Shoket. The breakfast for 600 raised $1.1m to support programs including enhanced math and science programs, summer learning opportunities, internships, college trips and mentoring events. Kudos to the Estée Lauder Companies and VP Phebe Farrow Port for the energy and momentum they provide to YWLN.

Saatchi & Saatchi New York is a supporter of YWLN through the efforts of SVP Management Director, Gina Christie, who has been awarded a 2012 ADCOLOR Award as a Change Agent for her work with the East Harlem school of YWLN. For me it creates a sort of a NYNZ loop. In Auckland, I have supported for many years the Turn Your Life Around Trust (TYLA) which provides support and choices to the young people at risk of offending. With YWLN I have encouraged the school leadership to look at introducing an entrepreneurial-focused program to their curriculum. This would offer young people the insights and skills to truly break free and be independent to change the world in ways big and small.

This venture is as worthy of support as anything I have ever seen. It genuinely makes a difference, it genuinely creates value, it is genuinely transformative. Get involved.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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