A new partnership between Spelman College and National nonprofit Braven, will allow sophomores to become ‘Braven Fellows’ by taking a two-part career-accelerating course. 

Braven was founded by a black woman and the program is specifically designed to help minority, low-income and first-generation students achieve economic mobility after graduation. 

Launched this semester, Spelman’s class of 2024 will be Braven’s first partnership with a Historically Black College. Ché Watkins, the newly appointed Executive Director of Braven Atlanta is also a Spelman Alumna. 

Watkins said Braven and Spelman first got connected at the start of the pandemic when Susan Dunn, who sits on the board of both organizations, got Braven to offer their 2-week booster course to Spelmanites. 

“Shortly after Dr.Campbell called our Founder and CEO Aimee Eubanks Davis and said ‘I want this program in a more robust way’” said Watkins. 

The program will replace Spelman’s ‘sophomore year experience.’ The student’s are split up into small cohorts of around 8 students led by a leadership coach who is a local entrepreneur or industry professional. 

Watkins said they were able to get a significant amount of Spelman graduates to volunteer their time this semester as leadership coaches. 

Mikayla Ross, a sophomore at Spelman, told the Atlanta Voice she was excited to learn more about the number of possibilities available to her and her classmates. She currently interns at Goldman Sachs and over the summer she will be interning at Bank of America but said not everyone knows these opportunities are open to underclassmen. 

“They don’t even know that we can get internships, most of the time they think it’s for seniors and juniors so to be able to educate friends and to see that people are getting educated on this is great,” she said.  

Ross added that she was grateful for the mentorship offered by her leadership coach. She said that because it’s a more casual relationship than with a professor, they can open up in class in ways they wouldn’t in a more strictly academic setting. 

Spelman’s current sophomore class graduated high school in 2020 and as a result have spent a majority of their time in college virtually. But, Ross said that after only two meetings with her Braven cohort she has made friends with girls in her year that she never knew before. 

In addition to the course, Braven will pair these students with a professional mentor in their senior year to help students as they transition into their careers. 

“Our goal is to ensure that when the students come out they are not economically stable but economically mobile,” Watkins said. 

A main objective of Braven Atlanta is to keep students in Atlanta after graduation, which Watkins said is part of the larger goal of shifting income inequality. 

“Our goal is to make sure that they have a strong first job; that means a competitive salary, that means benefits and that means career pathways,” Watkins added. 

In order for Braven’s program to operate they rely on volunteers who can serve as a leadership coach for 5 to 8 weeks. Braven also enlists around 270 volunteers to be a mock interviewer for one evening, eventually they will also be looking for professional mentors when this class enters their senior year. 

If you are interested in volunteering your time email che.watkins@bebraven.org. 

Madeline Thigpen is an education reporter and Report for America Corps Member. She joined the Atlanta Voice in 2021. At the Voice she covers K-12 education for the Atlanta metro region and higher education....