Origin: NY | Grant Awarded: 2018 | Status: Active

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What is Forefront?

Forefront (Arch Grants ‘ 19 and Techstars ’20) helps employers hire college students from underrepresented communities for in-demand roles. Their first product, Carmen AI, tailored to the growing Latino workforce, is a recruiting and career readiness assistant for students accessible via SMS and Facebook Messenger.

Company Leadership

Yulkendy Valdez

Co-Founder & Managing Partner

Yulkendy Valdez (CEO) is Afro-Latina from the Dominican Republic, raised in St. Louis, MO. She is a Forbes 30 Under 30 and TEDx Speaker that has been recognized by Vice, USA Today, and NPR.

I was born in the Dominican Republic. I moved to St. Louis at the age of 10 and grew up in a city surrounded by racial tension. I often found myself being the only one in the room as a Latina, as an immigrant, and as a black woman. That is why I have dedicated most of my life to building communities where no one feels left behind or alone. I have been fortunate to travel the world and work with high-potential future leaders (ages 14-35) from different walks of life. Along the way, I learned a lot about how to facilitate transformative dialogues about race, gender, and identity, and most importantly how to move them to action. With Forefront, my goal is to take the best practices that I learned from my own lived experience as well as my expertise as an educator to the corporate world. The private sector is filled with amazing opportunities and leaders who are committed to diversity and inclusion, and my goal is to help them create a thriving workplace that is ready for this next generation – so no one ever feels like they do not belong.

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Josuel Plasencia

Co-Founder & Managing Partner

I was raised in a small attic room by my mom who was a single mother, but I grew up thinking big. I grew up walking distance from where the Mets played in Queens, New York and as a kid I dreamed I can be a major league baseball player. After all, I was tall, Dominican and a lefty. I grew up and those dreams changed, as I began to dream I can be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. That said, in that world (unlike the baseball world) I realized that there were less leaders like myself. In my work in corporate, I was inspired by the incredible leaders committed to workplace inclusion. So inspired, I decided to start a series of national conferences connecting people committed to inclusion, and our work was featured at the UN’s Conference on Youth in Sri Lanka. The power of connection and storytelling bridge people across difference and create incredible outcomes. There is something special about learning from the unique experiences that make up who we are, and with Forefront, I am inspired to lead a company that brings diverse voices forward.

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