Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Project Destined changes face of Commercial Real Estate


Cedric Bobo understood the pride that comes with owning property from a young age. He learned it from family stories about his great-grandfather Tony Edmunds, a Black landowner in northern Mississippi in the 1890s.

“My grandmother would tell me how he framed himself as an important member of his community, someone who was an entrepreneur and his participation as an owner,” said Bobo. “I was deeply inspired by these stories.”

Despite the importance conveyed by his family history, Bobo did not learn how to become a landowner.

“It would have helped a lot if I had a network,” he added.

So, after a 20-year career as an investor, including more than ten years at The Carlyle Group, he established Project Destined, a non-profit dedicated to teaching real estate to high school and college students of color. The name of the organization was inspired by the 2016 film "Destined."

Project Destined exposes students not only to a network of real estate professionals, but also provides them with a stipend to attend real estate classes and access to mentors who guide them throughout the program. Among other things, students learn about financing, property evaluation, market value, and how to plan for renovations. Simultaneously, industry professionals learn about a talented pool of young professionals of colour.

Bobo's mission is to raise a new generation of Indian-descent real estate owners like Jagpar Bhupal. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in May 2022 as a member of the program's 2021 cohort.

“At Project Destined, I learned the ability to talk about and understand key real estate concepts and how to apply them in real life,” said Bhupal, who’s now a commercial real estate credit analyst at U.S. Bank and continues to mentor Project Destined participants.

“This program gave me the tools I needed to prepare for my job interview and role at U.S. Bank.”

Bobo and U.S. Bank collaborated in May 2022 to launch She's Invested: Supporting Emerging Female Leaders, the organization's first all-female program that provides mentorship and financial education to women of color from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and universities in Southern California.

Soon after, U.S. Bank's tax credit and community investment subsidiary, U.S. Bancorp Development Corporation (USBCDC), collaborated with Bobo to offer mentorship and internships to 10 undergraduate students in Charlotte, as well as in-person convening and networking opportunities, alongside the Bank's Commercial Real Estate division and their Credit Risk Management partners.
“When we learned about Project Destined, we knew that we wanted to build a partnership,” said Claire Schell, vice president of employee experience at USBCDC, who serves as a member of U.S. Bank’s Project Destined program steering committee, along with Dhiren Patel, Karla Kirkwood and Sarah Clabaugh. “We are absolutely aligned in our passion around creating access to opportunities – and the pathways created by this collaborative program are such an important way to demonstrate our commitment to racial equity outside of our four walls.”
In October 2022, USBCDC will also contribute $25,000 to Project Destined's Affordable Housing Bridge Program, an eight-week fellowship that connects alumni with nonprofit and for-profit affordable housing leaders and practitioners. USBCDC's long-term partners Eden Housing, Beacon Communities, and the Housing Partnership Network manage this programme.
“We see enormous potential in this program, and we look forward to seeing it grow and succeed,” said Lisa Gutierrez, director of business development at USBCDC. “Programs like these help students find career pathways that enable them to make a difference in their communities.”
From a pool of over 160 Project Destined alumni, 39 student fellows were chosen. Almost half of the fellows chosen have previously lived in low-income housing. The Bridge programme provides over 40 hours of hands-on experience with mentors and careers in affordable housing, as well as specialised workshops and career development and coaching sessions.
“Project Destined’s relationship with U.S. Bank is unprecedented,” said Bobo. “I’m proud of where we started and I’m looking forward to where we will go together.”
Since 2016, Project Destined has trained over 4,500 students in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Bobo's goal is to take the organisation to "new heights" by focusing on what students need to succeed in their lives and careers, as well as increasing their exposure to commercial real estate, an industry that lacks representation of people of colour.
“It makes me proud to see how this industry is supporting us and helping lots of kids’ lives change,” said Bobo. “I want the students to see themselves as part of the local economy and as leaders; I want them to have access to the opportunities that will help them achieve what they deeply desire.”