(L-R) Speakers at REAP NYC 2017 graduation: David Arena, JPMC; Osa Bartholomew, REAP; John McGinley, JPMC; G. Lamont Blackstone, G.L. Blackstone & Associates LLC; Valerie Rainford, JPMC; Ken McIntyre, REAP (Photo Credit: Carlos Escobar)
A group of 35 participants from Project REAP (Real Estate Associate Program) NYC recently held their graduation ceremony to build on the success of the program's effort to expand minority participation in commercial real estate. Since its founding 20 years ago, REAP has become increasingly recognized nationwide for its leading role in increasing diversity in commercial real estate (CRE) through a multi-layered program consisting of 10-week evening courses for undergraduate and graduate degree-holding employed professionals bolstered by enduring mentorship and networking opportunities. The graduation ceremony and reception were held Thursday, November 16 at a midtown office of JPMC, a major REAP sponsor.
Valerie Rainford, head of advancing black leaders and diversity advancement strategies at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPMC) praised “the power of persistence” of all involved in REAP, noting her own career path and longtime commitment to pursuing every program that could expand and enhance her skills.
“It's all about continuing to be your best self, about keeping at it and never giving up,” she said.
Ken McIntyre, REAP's interim executive director, congratulated all, applauded JPMC for its support, and thanked REAP's core supporters. He urged the graduates to join trade associations that support REAP and stressed the immense value of “the steps you've started to take.” He concluded, “We can go so much further together.”
REAP's Board Chair, G. Lamont Blackstone, CRX, principal, G. L. Blackstone & Associates LLC, compared the 10-week academic program to the development of a shopping center that begins with a prime location (classes are held in ICSC offices), requires major draws (REAP's topnotch instructors), then succeeds thanks to the diligent work of many from the board members to the volunteer committees of advisors, planners, program administrators and sponsors.
“This is but the beginning,” said Blackstone.
Graduates were hugely optimistic about future prospects thanks to REAP.
Teresa Clarke, business attorney, VP of HR and head of people legal operations with White & Case LLP said, “I'm excited about the network I've made and the opportunities open to me in the CRE space.”
Desiree Thomas, financial professional with Archimedes Alpha, said, “I feel empowered. I'm going to do great things. This program has opened the door for me to get to where I need to be.”
Kaylin Whittingham, an attorney who heads her own firm, noted that she is “Excited. Determined. I may enter the field sooner than I thought.”
Jeanette Mena, who attended the program on a fellowship from C.U.R.E. (Council of Urban Real Estate), said, “In this room there are so many people cheering for me, connecting me, lending me their support.” She added that there is now a “high probability I'll go into CRE.”
Daniel Chatters, VP, JPMC, said, “REAP has opened my eyes to CRE, I now understand how all parts work together – you may focus on one sector, but you're impacting a much larger ecosystem.”
David Rodriguez, a real estate investor who relocated from L.A. to participate in the program called it “amazing” and said, “It's broadened my perspective. I'm pursuing opportunities.” He added that he may make a career in CRE.
REAP is anticipating 2018 classes to begin in March in Chicago, Washington D.C. and New York City. See www.projectreap.org.