SEO's Response to COVID-19
Underserved populations are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and SEO participants are overwhelmingly from the communities hardest hit. However, the flexibility and tenacity of our SEO Family has never been more evident than it was throughout 2020.
In 2021, SEO continues to serve thousands of participants across the nation. SEO remains dedicated to, and inspired, by the incredible spirit of our participants as they continue to work towards college graduation and professional success. Read more to see how SEO has reimagined our daily operations to ensure the continued success of our programs and participants.
Before 2020, the SEO Scholars programming model, both in New York City and San Francisco, relied almost entirely on in-person instruction and community. Over just a few weeks, the SEO Scholars staff team developed and began delivering our program model virtually, which mirrored the same rigor and quality of instruction. Despite the challenges of virtual learning, our Scholars have remained highly-engaged in regular learning sessions, while also participating in community-building events, working with volunteer mentors, and continuing to apply to colleges and universities around the nation despite being uncertain of whether or not they will be moving to or returning to campus in the near future. It’s a true testament to the power of the SEO Scholars community and a clear indication that remote learning is not a deterrent for motivated students. We, as an organization, are invigorated by this, and we’re thrilled to begin exploring the feasibility of serving more students in more cities in the future.
SEO Scholars continues to provide rigorous academic instruction to ~1,000 high school students in New York City and ~115 high school students in San Francisco. This remote programming has included:
- Remote Summer and Fall Academy for high school Scholars in NYC and SF
- Navigation of college applications for more than 225 12th grade SEO Scholars in New York City and 23 12th graders in San Francisco.
- A record-breaking 14 Scholars receiving full-ride QuestBridge scholarships.
- Virtual recruitment campaign for the high school Class of 2024.
This winter, we welcome the newest cohort of high school Scholars in both New York City and San Francisco. In San Francisco, the SEO Scholars high school class of 2024 is nearly double the previous class size.
Within the college portion of our SEO Scholars program, the team continues to support more than 1,000 college students and has prepared the High School Class of 2020 for the realities of college, all while navigating constantly-changing nation- and state-wide mandates for safety. The team continues to help students understand the different permutations of learning approaches – with some schools choosing to deliver learning entirely remotely, some choosing to continue with in-person education, and others choosing a hybrid of the two – at nearly 200 different colleges and universities in 28 states around the country. Although we were not able to celebrate the monumental milestone of college graduation in-person, we were happy to highlight some of our phenomenal college graduates from 2020 in our video! In January, the college team hosted a virtual Winter Institute, which provided an additional opportunity for all college students to come together as a community.
In San Francisco, we were thrilled to welcome Omar Wandera as our Executive Director. He brings a plethora of knowledge on the landscape of education in California, and a desire to provide opportunities to highly determined high school students in San Francisco.
We also came together with our SEO Family to attend San Francisco’s Virtual Achievement Benefit in October 2020, which showcased many of our resilient Scholars’ stories. The event also featured an interview between honoree Kenneth Lin, Founder & CEO of Credit Karma, and SEO Alumnus and Advisory Board Member, James Gutierrez, Founder of Aura and Founder of Oportun. Thank you to all our incredible supporters, donors, and attendees who helped us raise more than $2.5 million for SEO Scholars in San Francisco! Watch our video from the event here.
SEO Career, SEO Law, and SEO Alternative Investments
In addition to reimaging our Scholars programming to deliver it virtually, we also reimagined how we provide the crucial training, exposure to opportunities, and life-long network, which are vital components of our Career, Law, and Alternative Investments programs.
In May 2020, SEO Career hosted a two-week virtual Career Summit, where we guided more than 420 students of color, a record number of participants, as they were prepared to begin summer internships at one of more than 80 SEO Career partners, fully ready to succeed in the workplace. The Summit included more than 100 virtual sessions, representing approximately 70 hours of training. As we saw with our Scholars, the digital nature of the program did not deter our Interns – approximately 80% of the class participated in at least one session. We are proud to share that the SEO Career Intern Class of 2020 earned a record number of full-time job offers with SEO Career partners, with approximately 88% of SEO Interns receiving offers.
SEO has long been aware that students of color are severely underrepresented in the technology industry. To combat this, we launched SEO Career’s newest program initiative: the SEO Tech Developer. Our Tech Developer is a free, intensive, immersion program initiative that will propel Black, Latinx, and Native American Computer Science and Engineering students to the next level of technical and problem-solving skills. Our Tech Developer gives students the training, curriculum, skills, and mentoring necessary to compete for coveted entry-level tech roles at top tech companies and startups. If you or someone you know is interested in applying to our Tech Developer, visit our website now.
Within our SEO Law program, we were thrilled to announce an entirely new program initiative, the SEO Law Catalyst. The nine-month SEO Law Catalyst assists underrepresented students in applying, and gaining admission to, law school. Selected students participate in a free, 15-week LSAT preparation program, including workshops to strengthen their application materials, complimentary coaching from professional admissions consultants, and individualized review of application materials. The SEO Law Catalyst will continue evolving throughout 2021.
In the fall, our SEO Law team also hosted a virtual SEO Law Career Day, which offered opportunities to network, access to top-level professionals, educational sessions with experienced speakers, and the platform to meet new people with similar mindsets. Nearly 200 law professionals participated in our event, and we were grateful for the support of 30 SEO Law partners. Watch a video from our event now!
We have been incredibly grateful throughout this past year for the unprecedented surge in support for our professional programs, SEO Career, SEO Law, and SEO Alternative Investments. The incoming support has resulted in more than 50 new SEO Career partners, as well as doubling the number of Alternative Investment partners in 2020. This has allowed us to welcome a record number of 700+ Interns in the SEO Career Intern Class of 2021, and our largest class of Fellows for our Alternative Investments Fellowship Program.
As a result of the on-going pandemic, the 2021 Annual Alternative Investments Conference (AICON), will be held virtually over three days (April 6-8). We look forward to welcoming many SEO Family members to our event in April this year. Register for the event now, or visit our AICON page for more information.
SEO Leadership Institute
SEO’s mission is driven by our vision of long-term, enduring societal change. As part of this mission, we have launched our newest SEO program: The SEO Leadership Institute. The SEO Leadership Institute provides on-going development to alumni, customized for each stage of their career. There are three distinct parts to the Institute: making connections, professional and personal development, and civic engagement. Learn more about our newest program and how you can get involved on our website!
Since March 2020, we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming four new members to SEO’s Board of Directors: Orlando Bravo, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Thoma Bravo; Maya Chorengel, Co-Managing Partner of The Rise Fund at TPG; Hythem T. El-Nazer, Managing Director at TA Associates; and Julian C. Salisbury, Global Head of Merchant Banking at Goldman Sachs. Thank you to our entire Board of Directors, whose support has allowed us to continue to grow as an organization and propel human potential.
Within our SEO staff teams, over the past year we’ve also welcomed 72 full- and part-time team members, including Patricia Diaz-Swedin, Vice President of People and Culture, and Rene Goldberg, Vice President of Information Technology. We’re excited to have their expertise as we continue building SEO’s capacity to support the exciting growth across all our programs.
In November, our Development team launched the SEO Annual Fund, which supports our SEO Scholars and operational budgets. The launch of this Fund coincided with #GivingTuesday, during which we saw more than $25k in donations, including a generous match from SEO Board Member Jim Attwood. You can still contribute to our Annual Fund and explore additional ways of getting involved with SEO today.
We’re also looking forward to our 2021 SEO Virtual Annual Awards Dinner on April 20, 2021, when we will honor Frank Baker, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Siris Capital Group, LLC, and SEO ‘92 Alumnus, and Marc Benioff, Chair and CEO, Salesforce. The Dinner Chair is David Solomon, Chairman & CEO of Goldman Sachs. All dinner supporters receive access to an online fireside chat between Henry Kravis, Co-Chairman and Co-CEO, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., and each honoree on April 1. Register for the event now, or visit web page for more information! In the meantime, we highly encourage visiting the 2020 Stay-at-Home Award Dinner page for some of our favorite videos.
Within our SEO USA teams, our finance, administrative, HR, IT, communications, and facilities teams all continue to ensure that our entire staff team, of more than 250 full- and part-time teammates, can efficiently and safely work from home. SEO is actively recruiting new team members – if you’re interested in joining our motivated #SEOFamily, visit our web page now.