CHICAGO — Lilian Rosales, 17, a senior at Muchin College Prep in Chicago, grew up around real estate — her father and cousin work in the industry — but she didn’t think she’d consider a career in the field until until she launches it Stage Alliance Urbaine. Instead, her family thought she would pursue a career in medicine.
Urban Alliance, a nonprofit internship program for high school youth, provides job training and mentorship. Its latest program, Property Management Pathway, allows high school students to choose between renting or maintaining and earning professional credentials and certifications in those areas. Participants are paid for their work and receive course credit. After completing the certification training, students participate in six- to eight-month internships, working 12 hours per week during the school year and 32 hours per week after graduation. Rosales’ internship is with Chicago-based apartment management company RMK Management Corp., and she’s learning the ins and outs of being a rental consultant at 73 East Lake.
“The rental just got me excited,” the Chicago Lawn resident said. “There are a lot of things that come into play… it’s not just about contract reporting and understanding marketing reporting, financials, it’s about building relationships. With renting you create a great sense of community and a warm feeling of family. People come looking for a home and we have a community that feels like home. It’s really very good.”
Rosales is one of many Chicago students taking advantage of programs offered by local real estate organizations to reach the next generation of real estate professionals while diversifying the industry. Collete English Dixon, executive director of the Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate at Roosevelt University, has worked in the real estate industry for 40 years and says if more people from black and brown communities are in the field, the figures have not changed dramatically.
“Finally, the industry has come to the conclusion that the lack of diversity is a problem,” Dixon said. “And if we really want to change things, we can’t wait for these young people to show up for college. We need to get them before they start making decisions about what their future will be. We want to take this opportunity to potentially generate interest in this industry, its impact and how people can participate in it. It’s not a wizarding industry. You can enter it in different ways.
Dixon visits high schools to talk to students about careers in real estate. The Marshall Bennett Institute, which offers undergraduate and graduate programs in real estate, hosted the Real Estate Exchange (REEX) Summer Program, a two-week residential program for current high school students that exposes them to real estate commercial. Pangea Real Estate, a real estate investment and management company with more than 13,000 apartments and townhouses in Chicago, Indianapolis and Baltimore, hosts paid internships for high school and seniors through its Foundations program. For six weeks over the summer, interns rotate between the downtown Pangea headquarters, contract center, and neighborhood offices to gain knowledge from various departments while working on life skills like interviews, CVs and LinkedIn profiles. Pangea also partners with Chicago Hope Academy on the Near West Side to share information about real estate as a career and mentorship.
“High school juniors and seniors, these are the formative years in which we look for these candidates, from underserved or underfunded areas,” said Patrick Borchard, chief financial officer of Pangea. “In many cases, it’s that ‘aha moment’ of simply opening their eyes to the different professional careers there could be. The ultimate goal for us is to expose these kids to the world of work, to professional life and moving them down the path they choose to kind of establish that for themselves.
He said that over the years of offering internships to high school students, feedback from young people has focused more on entrepreneurship and technology and personal achievement. “We’ve been really focused on enriching communities where we also invest in running a business – that’s just part of it.”
Abiodun Durojaye, executive director of Urban Alliance, said early exposure to real estate industry skills and terminology helps students know what they want and don’t want in a career. Urban Alliance mentors interview young people about their post-secondary plans, and if they want to work in real estate, Urban Alliance initiates conversations with contacts to make it happen. Partner companies have the first opportunity to hire interns at the end of the program.
“We have 17 students who are learning, asking themselves questions: ‘If I want to work here, what do I need?’ “said Durojaye. “College isn’t for everyone, we understand that, but if they can get real estate experience, get certified, and start working to earn $50,000 to $60,000 at 17 , 18? It changes the life of a young person.
Jonathan Hill is an Urban Alliance alumnus from the Washington, DC area, who works for Chicago-based software development company Relativity as a community engagement manager. He has served as a mentor and his organization sponsors Urban Alliance interns.
“When you think of the industries that Urban Alliance exposes young people to in terms of careers, these are conversations that often don’t happen in groups of friends, in family households, and in communities,” Hill said. “This organization is that springboard, that voice, that advocates for them to be exposed early to something they don’t know – that kind of development curation is one in a million. We need more of that.
Diana Pittro, executive vice president of RMK Management Corp., agrees that more is the way to go. She said her company had three interns, including Rosales.
“I really think getting them to high school is the way to go because from everything I read there are more and more young people who are deciding not to go to college for a lot of reasons,” she said. “And (real estate is) another opportunity they can consider when they start wearing their adult pants. My daughter is in the industry. And that’s how it goes, it comes through mentoring and empowerment.
Durojaye challenges employers to think about authenticity in the future. Seeing more people in real estate educate themselves and talk about the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion can make or break a student’s first experience in this world of work, he said. she stated.
“Access and exposure are important,” she said. “We need to start breaking down those barriers and making sure that every student can come into these organizations as all they (are) and learn to be the best version of who they are. If I’m not accepted in a certain space, I won’t go there.
Dixon said she was happy to be a contact for people who want to “pull the curtain back on the great opportunities and potential in this industry.” Although the pandemic has slowed the pace of in-person summer programs, she hopes that too will change, getting more numbers to participate in Roosevelt’s summer immersion program and other classroom conversations.
“I try to supplement engagement with high school students with things like going to virtual speaker series, where someone from another company will come in and talk about what they’re doing,” Dixon said. . “I have a whole cohort of people who are available to do it. We will continue to try to find ways to bring young people into the room and not only make a difference in their community, but they can also achieve a lot financially and personally by getting involved. We want to make sure we have a diverse talent pool to take advantage of.
Rosales’ enthusiasm for what she has found in real estate so far is evident.
“When I walked into the office, I was expecting a man because in the real estate business, most of the upper echelons, you’ll see a man,” Rosales said. “But this office, I love it because this office is led by a woman, which clearly shows that we can do it. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, this industry is open.