For more than 20 years, Unum each spring has hosted students from dozens of Maine schools at its office in Portland for Urban Adventure, a two-day overnight program for eighth-graders who are part of Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG).
Started in 1993, JMG prepares Maine students for successful careers by helping them overcome academic, financial and social barriers. School administrators can recommend students who might meet those barriers to be part of the program. Those students are then interviewed and, if selected for the program, will attend classes and take part in activities held throughout the year. The programs are led by JMG Specialists, who serve as mentors and educators for the students from middle school through college.
Unum began its partnership with JMG nearly 20 years ago. It was the first organization to give a six-figure gift to JMG and has since then invested more than $1.5 million. This year, students from 26 schools took part.
However, Cary Olson Cartwright, Assistant Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at Unum said: “Unum’s philosophy of our charitable giving is to go beyond the checkbook. This support with JMG is an example of how to build an education/business partnership.”
That’s why Unum began to increase its employees’ engagement in JMG, giving employees the opportunity to volunteer in some of its more than 130 programs. And, in 2005, when the facility that originally held Urban Adventure was no longer able to support the event, Unum began hosting it at its office.
“That’s when Urban Adventure shifted to be about workforce development,” said Victor Esposito Jr., JMG master specialist and middle school specialist at Vassalboro Community School.
In order to attend the event at Unum, students work throughout the year to meet certain benchmarks, such as grades, participation and behavior. Prior to the event, the attending students identify a career path in which they have an interest. They then go to a career fair attended by non-local businesses in their fields of interest.
Urban Adventure then begins that afternoon with a scavenger hunt in downtown Portland, where the students search for items such as job applications, business cards and grocery prices. They visit local business in their fields of interest before returning to the Unum office for the night, where they have a dance, watch movies and play games. The second day of the event focuses on workforce development and consists of mock interviews and rotational initiatives that teach the students various skills including how to prepare for an interview, inclusion and diversity workshops and personal branding.
“The beneficiaries of this are these kids,” Esposito said, “They go home from Urban Adventure/Unum as much richer, much smarter, and much more informed kids – and, I think, more confident kids. That’s what makes it worthwhile.”
Unum employees also volunteer at various JMG events throughout the year, encouraging them to meet the benchmarks to attend Urban Adventure during their eighth-grade year. Unum also partners with Maine high schools to provide mock interviews, job shadows and tours of its office to give students the opportunity to see the various job areas and careers that exist in insurance.
“The way JMG is supporting these students and getting them ready for higher education and the workforce is remarkable,” said Olson Cartwright. “We’re really happy to partner with them and to be able to support these students and the Specialists in a very unique way.”
Public education is one of Unum’s main areas of focus for charitable giving. Learn more here.