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Project Basta fellows smiling as they work together on laptops.

Basta Helps College Students of Color Secure Quality Employment

Basta supports college students of color who are first-generation students or from low-income backgrounds in securing career-pathway jobs upon program completion.

Organization Info

Project BASTA



Organization Lead

Sheila Sarem

Foundation Lead

Sara Sherizen

Higher education is the most direct path to economic mobility, and Basta’s career support lays the foundation for quality employment and higher earnings throughout students’ careers.

From College Graduation to Career Success

Each year, talented and ambitious students graduate from college ready to make their mark on the world – and eager to make the most out of the time and money they’ve invested in their education. But not all college graduates are afforded the same benefits from earning a bachelor’s degree. When it comes to starting salaries, graduates from low-income backgrounds begin their careers earning two-thirds as much as their peers from higher-income backgrounds. Even just a $5,000 difference in starting salary can result in $600,000 of lost wages over a lifetime.

College graduates of color are also likely to experience higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, which means their skill set and education level exceed what is required for their role. A study from Burning Glass Technologies and the Strada Institute for the Future of Work found that two-thirds of workers who were underemployed in their first job out of college remain underemployed five years later.

"Foundational to Basta's career success model is centering the young person in their career journey, something that is at the heart of all of our programming and service offerings."
Sheila Sarem Founder
Claudia, a Basta career coach, meets with a college student through a video call on here laptop.
Claudia, a Basta career coach, meets with college students who are nearing graduation to help them start their post-college careers on the right path.

Basta was created to unlock the possibilities that students can strive toward after graduation and to close these employment gaps. Five years since the founding of Basta’s Fellows program, it is already supporting fellows in securing career-pathway jobs at a rate of 80%. The program opens up the door to a greater level of opportunity and prosperity that will reverberate throughout their lives.

In addition to advancing career outcomes for individual students of color, Basta also strives to advance systemic change and increase workforce diversity at all levels. The organization partners with employers such as Bloomberg and Snapchat to provide access to diverse talent, professional development to hiring managers, and qualitative data from employee and hiring manager surveys.

Basta student Simely holds her laptop in her room.

Meet Simely

After completing her communications degree, Simely was searching for guidance on how to kickstart her career. “I’ve never had a full-time job,” she describes, “how do I even go about that?”

Basta’s 10-week fellowship program helped articulate her vision to work in the non-profit sector. “The search for meaning was really important because of how my parents raised me,” Simely reflects. “And I figured that out because of Basta.” After the program concluded, a Basta coach worked with Simely to identify strategies, techniques, and resources to find and interview for jobs within her career focus.

Partnering to Create College-to-Career Pathways

Originally designed as a fellowship program, the organization now serves a greater number of students across the country through a capacity-building program called Powered by Basta. Anchored in a first-of-its-kind career navigation tool that accurately assesses a student’s starting point on their journey, the program’s career readiness training is delivered in partnership with institutions of higher education and college success organizations.

While college success organizations have traditionally focused their efforts on graduation outcomes, there is a growing recognition of the need to prepare students for what comes next. The Powered by Basta career readiness curriculum and resources are tailored to serve a range of partners including nonprofits in college success, charter management organizations, youth-development organizations, and colleges.

These partnerships make it possible for programs to support students — and for Basta to advance quality employment at a greater scale.

Claudia, a Basta career coach, reviews a college student's diagnostic tool results on a laptop.
Career coaches can utilize Basta’s diagnostics tool to guide students to the right career and set them up for a lifetime of success.

Diagnostic Survey for Tailored Support

In collaboration with Bellwether Education Partners, Basta developed a diagnostic tool that assesses an individual’s interests and needs. This includes their level of clarity about which industries or job types are most appealing, their skills and experience, and motivators such as target salary or work environment. The survey can be administered at any point in an individual’s job search process, allowing for usage across a range of program models.

Participating college success organizations receive an interactive dashboard with respondent data along with a guidebook describing how to interpret scores and recommending how to tailor support to individuals based on their results. This approach ensures that every student receives high-quality coaching that acknowledges where they are in their professional journey and is oriented toward where they want to go.

Dive Deeper

Basta Student Reflections

Project Basta Fellows and Alumni share what it means to be a first-generation college student and their personal experience working with their peers and advisors in the program.