Initiative offers experience, mentorships, training, and networking to diverse professionals
Nationwide – On MLK Day, January 17, 2022, the day that celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Open Access/REAP Program has announced the selection of 23 highly qualified professionals for its second annual Open Access Fellowship Program in community development finance that will run through Friday, April 15, 2022. The fellows were chosen from a wide pool of over 200 candidates spanning the nation from Houston and Atlanta to Chicago, Columbus, Ann Arbor, New York City and many other major cities.
The community development finance industry, bolstered by the recent reauthorization of the New Markets Tax Credit Program, offers economic support to low-income areas in the form of lower-than-market-rate interest loans and other economic incentives to help support job creation, small businesses, housing, and other areas requiring assistance. The industry is urgently needed as the nation strains to recover from a pandemic that disproportionately affected communities of color in terms of health crises and the ensuing economic devastation that has witnessed unparalleled unemployment rates, evictions realized and threatened, food deprivation, and small businesses forced to close or struggle to stay viable.
Yet, while community development often serves communities of color, it is currently grossly under-represented by Black and Latinx individuals. Open Access is a newly organized group of executive-level individuals led by co-founders Gina Nisbeth, a director at Citi, and Jeff Monge, managing partner of Monge Capital. The goal of Open Access is to correct the imbalance so that BIPOC professionals will be significantly involved in and, increasingly, lead the efforts of community development finance to improve the health, education, and access to wealth of economically disadvantaged populations.
Open Access is offering paid, mostly virtual, fellowships as well as online experience, training, mentorships, and networking sessions to talented professionals of color seeking careers in community development finance. The program is presented in collaboration with Project REAP (Real Estate Associate Program), one of the nation’s most successful diversity initiatives connecting professionals to commercial real estate (CRE) for over two decades.
Says REAP Board Chair and Acting Executive Director Lamont Blackstone, “The nexus of commercial real estate and economic development has always been important for communities of color, the rising majority of America. Regardless of whether a development project involves an urban retail district, a high-achieving charter school, or the historic preservation of a treasured theater, human capital equipped with financial skills is essential for development success. REAP is glad to support the Open Access initiative as it is addressing the dearth of BIPOC talent trained in community development finance. The Open Access leadership, in concert with Project REAP, is correcting the invisibility that has hindered access by professionals of color to a career that transforms communities. Opportunity unseen is opportunity that is withheld.”
In the words of Dr. King, “Every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. Each can spell either salvation or doom.” Open Access hopes to bring communities closer to the former.
The group proudly presents its 2022 Open Access Fellows:
|Andre Lewis||Advantage Community Capital||New Orleans, LA|
|Asia Speights||Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition||Washington, DC|
|Lacey Johnson||Aspira Capital||Tenafly, NJ|
|Albert Matlock||Baker Tilly||Chicago, IL|
|Ariana Paz||Capital Impact Partners||Arlington, VA|
|Shenika Jackson||Chicago Community Loan Fund||Chicago, IL|
|Tyrone Thomas||CohnReznick||New York, NY|
|Jonathan Lopez||Genesis LA||Los Angeles, CA|
|Eliana Lozano||Hunt Capital Partners||Encino, CA|
|Willie Bolden||LIIF||San Francisco, CA|
|Christopher Thompson||Merchants Capital||Carmel, IN|
|Takila Oku||Monge Capital||Newark, NJ|
|Calvin St Juste||National Equity Fund||Chicago, IL|
|Rashidah Billups||New Jersey Community Capital||New Brunswick, NJ|
|Osvaldo Jimenez||New Markets Support Company||Chicago, IL|
|Deborah Owolabi||NORF Companies||New Orleans, LA|
|Bianca Cole||Novogradac||San Francisco, CA|
|Chris Bowers||NTCIC||Washington, DC|
|Jerry Valentine||Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing||Columbus, OH|
|Lester Simpson||Rise Community Capital||Pasadena, CA|
|Tyrone Patillo||Stonehenge Capital||Columbus, OH|
|Chris Mendez||Telacu||Los Angeles, CA|
|Kenneth Stallings||The Reinvestment Fund||Philadelphia, PA|
In addition to paid fellowships, other programmatic financial sponsors include U.S. Bank, JPM Chase, PNC Financial Services Group, Monge Capital, Novogradac, Telacu, Dudley Ventures, Hunt Companies, Merchant Capital, NORF Companies, Advantage Capital, National Community Investment Fund, The Bernstein Companies and Women in Housing Finance (WHF).