Usher Announces UNL Spark Center

Monday, December 14, 2015

One hundred executives and CEOs from top Atlanta corporations gathered at the Mandarin Oriental hotel for an exclusive Metro Atlanta Chamber breakfast and conversation hosted by John Rice, Vice-Chairman of General Electric (GE), and Usher Raymond IV, Founder of Usher’s New Look (UNL), his sixteen-year-old nonprofit that develops youth from underserved communities into global youth leaders. The conversation entitled, ‘Jobs Are the New Global Currency’, tackled hot business topics such as the global economy,  jobs of tomorrow and how to prepare our future workforce, while also launching discussion and action around Usher’s first-ever youth center opening in Atlanta, the Usher’s New Look Spark Center.

John Rice began by speaking on the U.S as a leader in job creation market, especially in terms of using jobs to bring about global change. He further discussed the U.S in terms of its obligation as a leading nation to bridge the gap for underserved youth as more new and uncharted careers continue to emerge. He spoke on GE’s commitments to job creation in impoverished communities, like the building of a facility in Calabar, Nigeria. Rice shared his passion as a partner with UNL to offer job shadows and internships for high school and college student members of UNL’s programs. He concluded that in order to create a more diverse workforce, the one-percent must find more ways to provide career opportunity and exposure to youth who are otherwise unexposed due to their socio-economic status. Rice also urged the room to invest in programs like UNL because of their incorporation of global exposure, stating that, “When you grow up in one place, you see the world through only one lens. When you are exposed, you gain new perspectives.”

Usher followed up with remarks on the history of UNL, the education crisis and the importance of exposure. He shared his story, “UNL came by way of a necessity. Especially here in Atlanta, my mother and I saw there was not someone to facilitate a greater opportunity for young men and women who were coming from impoverished communities. There was an opportunity to do something positive.” With the high school graduation rates still in need of much attention and improvement, Usher announced an expanded solution for better preparing young minds: The UNL Spark Center. He shared his vision of the UNL youth center in midtown Atlanta for high school and college students, as a global hub for youth innovation around UNL’s four pillars; talent, education, career and service. At the Spark Center, students will be able to see and test out new career pathways, hear from industry experts, learn, create and innovate. Students will be encouraged to try out entrepreneurship around their area of passion and will have the resources at hand to become limitless.

Usher left the room with this: “Invest in youth. They are by far our greatest commerce. Give opportunity and give insight…The UNL Spark Center is really an incubator for the young men and women who will hopefully someday lead your businesses.” The room was called to action to “Start the Spark” by making an investment in young minds through the funding of the new UNL Spark Center. 

Here are three things you can do right now to help us #StartTheSpark

  1. Support Spark Center Students by making a donation here
  2. Offer a UNL student a Job Shadow or Internship by emailing Melissa Wood,
  3. Set up a meeting to learn more about UNL’s programs by emailing Marvin Logan,