OPEN ACCESS/REAP Selects Inaugural Candidates for Virtual Fellowships in Community Development Finance

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Initiative offers experience, mentorships, training, and networking to diverse professionals

Nationwide – On MLK Day, January 18, 2021, 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 a pilot, all-virtual Open Access Fellowship Program in community development finance that will run through Friday, April 16, 2021. The fellows were chosen from a wide pool of candidates spanning the nation from LA and Denver to Chicago, New Orleans, Newark, 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 small businesses, housing organizations 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 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), the nation’s most successful diversity initiative connecting professionals to commercial real estate (CRE) for over two decades.

Says REAP Chief Program Officer Osayamen Asemota-Bartholomew, “REAP is proud to help launch the rollout of Open Access, a program that will increase the representation of persons of color in community development finance. The current disproportionately low number of BIPOC professionals in the field both deprives neighborhoods of the cultural affinities offered by persons who reflect the ethnicity of the communities served and leaves large groups of talent unaware of and lacking access to career opportunities. We are glad to welcome the first round of Open Access fellows, a stellar and dedicated group.”

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 Inaugural Open Access Fellows:

FellowFellowshipHeadquarters
Trevor NelsonAdvantage CapitalNew Orleans, LA
Anika WrightAdvantage CapitalNew Orleans, LA
Jaquis McCulloughBaker Tilly US, LLPChicago, IL
Melanie McNeelyChicago Community Loan Fund Chicago, IL
Ja'Shar HartleyCinnaireLansing, MI
John MooreClassic Lake ConsultingLos Angeles, CA
Ed ChatmonCleveland Development AdvisorsCleveland, OH
Christen RichardsonGreenline VenturesDenver, CO
Isaiah WilliamsGreenline VenturesDenver, CO
Chabelli CaceresMonge CapitalNewark, NJ
Chima JosephMonge CapitalNewark, NJ
Brianne Andrea Lund Monge CapitalNewark, NJ
Giovanni AraujoNational Trust Community Investment CorporationWashington, DC
Danielle SaltersNew Jersey Community CapitalNew Brunswick, NJ
Jocelyn MooreNew Markets Support CompanyChicago, IL
Rob EbanksNew Markets Support CompanyChicago, IL
Allison BernsteinNovogradac & Company LLPSan Francisco, CA
Ashley McMichaelNovogradac & Company LLPSan Francisco, CA
Jessica WashingtonNovogradac & Company LLPSan Francisco, CA
Nicole DillardStonehenge CapitalColumbus, OH
Marcus JonesTELACULos Angeles, CA
Steven McClendonReinvestment FundPhiladelphia, PA
Desiree ThomasTruFund Financial ServicesNew York, NY

In addition to paid fellowship sponsorships, other programmatic financial sponsors include JPM Chase, U.S. Bank, Citi, PNC Bank, Novogradac, Dudley Ventures, Advantage Capital, NTCIC, and Monge Capital. For more information see https://www.projectreap.org/open-access.

Media contact:
Evelyn Mertens, emertens@westnet.com
914.762.6429; 914.263.9129 (mobile)

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