Pursuit, the Long Island City-based social impact organization that builds pathways to lucrative and long-term tech careers for hundreds of adults, is observing Black History Month throughout February by highlighting and celebrating the journeys of its Black fellows, alumni, volunteers and staff through scheduled programming and across social media.
“At Pursuit, we’re proud to have a diverse staff from different backgrounds and cultures, one that works every day to ensure that our Pursuit Fellows – 100% low-income, 70% Black or Latino, 40% first-generation immigrants, 50% women, trans or non-binary, and 60% without a college degree – get the best job-readiness training and land transformational careers in tech,” Pursuit Co-Founder Jukay Hsu told QNS. “Especially during Black History Month, we count it an honor to celebrate the history and achievements of the Black community. Despite enduring centuries of systematic racism and disenfranchisement, the Black community continually shapes and impacts our world in undeniable and meaningful ways, and it regularly calls us to live into the ideals we proclaim but fail to live into fully.”
Raised in Flushing, the Taiwanese immigrant joined the Army following his graduation from Harvard and commanded a rifle platoon in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle, where it conducted patrols and raids. Hsu also led economic development and governance initiatives for two Iraqi districts, which culminated in the founding of the first private provincial radio station with Iraqi reporters. After Hsu returned home, he founded Coalition for Queens in 2011 to cultivate Queens’ diversity into a hub for technology and innovation. Now known as Pursuit, the nonprofit expanded citywide working directly with tech companies to secure hiring commitments, which resulted in equitable employment practices, improved workplace culture and on-the-job support.
“While the United States has come a long way in recent decades, there’s still so much to be done in building more diverse, equitable and inclusive systems,” Hsu said. “In tech alone, Black people currently make up 7% to 8% of the tech workforce – and Black women just roughly 1.8%. This must change, and we see it as our responsibility to work alongside our community and employer partners to create viable paths to tech and ensure our Black fellows don’t just have a seat in the room but are celebrated at the table.”
Pursuit has raised more than $10 million in impact investments to support its growth. In December, Bank of America presented Hsu with a $200,000 grant in unrestricted funding as part of its Neighborhood Builders program in recognition of Pursuit’s work in helping others chart a path to economic opportunity.
“At Bank of America, helping advance racial equality and economic opportunity is fundamental to how we run our company,” said José Tavarez, president of Bank of America New York City. “It informs how we best meet the needs of our clients, teammates and communities through our products, services and philanthropy, including our signature philanthropic program, Neighborhood Builders. We look forward to continuing our support for nonprofits, like Pursuit, that address systemic barriers for underrepresented communities to help drive social progress and economic mobility.”
With its Neighborhood Builders funding, Pursuit plans to double the number of fellows in its training program and expand community outreach efforts.
“Low-income and marginalized communities have largely been left out of the life-changing career and wealth-generating opportunities brought about by tech,” Hsu said. “This is a loss, not only for those communities but also for the tech industry, who misses out on hiring and developing top-notch talent. The Bank of America Neighborhood Builder award will not only enable us to reach more talented people, but will also support our team as they develop the crucial leadership skills needed to advance our mission of creating a more diverse, inclusive and equitable tech industry.”
The Brooklyn-based nonprofit New Heights was also recognized as a Neighborhood Builder for its dedication to helping underserved youth from high school and college to succeed academically and become future leaders.
“Bank of America’s Neighborhood Builders program helps local nonprofits develop and broaden their programming to address short-term needs, as well as create lasting stability in the communities they serve,” Tavarez said. “New Heights and Pursuit are two organizations that work to close gaps in opportunity for youth and systemic barriers in the tech industry to help drive social progress through academic and workforce skills training. I welcome both to our Neighborhood Builders family and look forward to seeing their continued impact.”