Volume 22, Number 06 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | June 26 - July 2, 2009.
Migna Taveras, who was a fellow at the Council of Urban Professionals, said she was impressed the group was able to get Hillary Clinton to speak during her presidential campaign.
Minorities getting their fill of leadership skills at CUP
By Chelsea-Lyn Rudder
Downtown’s Council of Urban Professionals sees itself as the N.A.A.C.P. or the National Urban League for the new millennium.
The 430 members of CUP are primarily African American, Latino and Asian and the group’s goal is to promote the economic, social and political interests of people of color. CUP tries to pick up where it says more established civil rights organizations have left off. It focuses not only on helping members gain access, where people of color are underrepresented, but also provides a network of peers for successful and aspiring individuals.
“CUP provides a structured way for like-minded individuals to meet and get to know each other” said PJ Kim, one of 14 members of CUP’s fellowship program and a resident of Lower Manhattan.
The fellows spend one Saturday a month in an all day leadership training session. During a typical session, the fellows work on skills such as how to make a succinct elevator pitch to a power player.
Kim noted that many of the elected officials that have spoken at the sessions were close in age to the fellows. “It helped me to see how I could follow their lead, and take things to the next level,” said Kim, who was born in South Korea. He is wasting no time in putting his new leadership training into action. In May he declared his candidacy for Lower Manhattan’s First City Council District.
Chloe Drew, CUP’s executive director, said it is an advantage to be based near Wall St. “Being Downtown is wonderful,” she said. “So many of our members are in finance, even with the economic downturn.”
CUP’s office at 55 Exchange Pl. is also home to a number of other non-profits including the Hispanic Federation, an umbrella organization for Latino social service providers. CUP has been sharing office space with the federation for a year.
The organization works to get CUP members placed on the governing bodies of public and private institutions.
“We have placed 20 people on various boards in the last 14 months, including the State University of New York board of directors” said Drew. Founding member John Rhea was recently appointed to the chairmanship of the New York City Housing Authority.
Established in 2006, CUP has already developed a popular following around its networking events. Last December’s holiday party was sold out days in advance.
When Migna Taveras was introduced to the organization in 2007, she was impressed that CUP was able to get Hillary Clinton, then a front running presidential candidate, to speak at one of their events.
Taveras, a policy analyst for the New York City Council, said that she is glad that she decided to apply for the fellowship last year. “One of the most rewarding aspects was developing relationships with fellows from other industries,” she said.
Former fellows are also given two years of complimentary general membership to the organization. General and associate memberships cost $1,000 and $250.
The organization also has a program called REACH, which encourages low-income high school students to take Advanced Placement courses. The goal is to increase the number of low-income students at Ivy League universities. CUP sponsored a pilot program in 2007 which rewarded students at 30 city high schools with $1,000 for every top score, 5, that they scored on an A.P. exam.. The organization also sponsored a test prep program called Learn Earn and Win which helped to prepare 2,300 students for A.P. exams last year.