A recent graduate of Robert F. Kennedy Community High School in Queens and an active member of Beat the Streets, Yusif Noori speaks confidently when asked about the enrichment programs that Beat the Streets (BTS) and partner organizations like Varonis Systems, Inc. (“Varonis”), offer to the youth of New York City.
“In my entire life, I have never felt as nurtured. With BTS, there is always a safety net for me because I can rely on the people around me, and Varonis was another network that reinforced that idea. I’ve never had such a sense of security in my life, but you get it in this community,” Noori said in reflection.
Varonis, a tech company that specializes in cybersecurity, works with organizations like Beat the Streets to provide young individuals like Noori mentoring, tutoring and professional development opportunities.
Varonis’ founders – Chief Executive Officer and President Yaki Faitelson and co-founder Ohad Korkus – created the company in 2004 after helping an organization recover from the loss of critical information from its servers. The pair realized many organizations were similarly vulnerable to data theft and loss and developed software to better manage and protect it.
When Beat the Streets was founded in 2005, there were fewer than 30 total wrestling teams across the entire city. Over the past decade-plus, that number has increased nearly fivefold due in large part to BTS’ ongoing efforts to expand their organization.
“We believe that corporations can do so much. We also believe that people want to give back, and, if you systemize it, you can do it at great scale. We got to a certain stage in our lives where it made sense to give back and to do so in a mindful, impactful way,” Faitelson said when asked about why the desire to give back was important to Varonis.
The company’s relationship with Beat the Streets began in 2016, when Faitelson learned about the organization through BTS board member Scott Beck. “Through casual conversations, Scott would explain the program to me and try to get us involved. We started by donating money, but I told Scott, ‘I think we can do more than that.’ That’s how it all started,” Faitelson recalled. That first donation was directed to support Beat the Streets’ SAT tutoring program for high school students. Varonis not only funded the program, but worked with BTS to analyze the participants’ improvement and quantify their “return on investment.” The results were concrete: the average SAT score had improved by about 150 total points.
“Our partnership with Varonis is incredibly important and valuable. Our kids are getting individual mentorship with a large number of people at this organization, starting with the CEO himself. For BTS and our kids to have this kind of interest and opportunity in their lives is simply unheard. We are eternally grateful for their kindness, generosity and support,” BTS Executive Director Brendan Buckley said of Varonis’ importance to the organization.
After seeing success in the first year with simple financial support, Varonis decided to increase their involvement in 2017 by creating a Life Skills Internship Program that would provide BTS students with valuable skills and experience.
“The internship is a rotational program where the students go through five different departments of the company – HR/Recruiting, Finance, Inside Sales, IT and Marketing. They learn about different career opportunities, and each department teaches real-life skills,” said Michele Neuberg, Varonis’ Human Resources Business Partner and one of the many employees working hand-in-hand with the BTS students. From building LinkedIn profiles, to creating resumes, to honing in on important interview skills, the participants take away skills that will help them throughout their careers. Varonis took the “Life Skills” curriculum a step further, adding a Financial Literacy Program to help BTS students with basic finance skills.
“I think this is a course that is relevant for anyone,” said Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer Guy Melamed, who leads the Financial Skills Program. “There’s no reason finance should be scary. If you just talk about it and discuss the different terms, people can get familiar with it and become more comfortable. It was a fun group and it was interesting to hear their views and learn together.” The open-ended style Melamed used kept the students engaged with the content and showed immediate results, as he recalled a session about retirement plans.
“When we started a conversation about 401k plans at one of the sessions, we did a quick show of hands to ask who would invest and no one raised their hands. At the end of the session, we asked again and the answer was an enthusiastic “yes!”. That is all we can ask for. If we can only have these kids improve one thing – like improving their credit score by 50 points or being conscious about how a credit score is affected – it can help in so many ways in the future,” said Melamed.
The Beat the Streets partnership with Varonis demonstrates the power nonprofits and corporations have to create change in the communities they serve. Varonis has started similar partnerships near their offices based in North Carolina and Israel and works with its partners like Beat the Streets to define a clear picture of “what success looks like.”
Over the next five years, according to Vice President of Human Resources Dana Shahar, Varonis hopes to work with at least 100 BTS high school and middle school students a year through SAT courses, Life Skills Internships, Financial Literacy Programs, after school tutoring programs at middle schools, and an “alumni support system” created to stay connected with students. The hope is that we will see at least 90 percent of the students that come through the pipeline eventually make it to college and enter the workforce better equipped than they would have been without the support of the programs.
“We are measuring everything objectively – all the progress, everything that’s going on. The intangibles and the relationships we have with the kids are more important, though. Michele did a brilliant job building a connection with them, and we will make sure, as much as we can, that they will finish college and be well-situated in the labor market.” Faitelson said.
Noori began his connection with Varonis by completing last year’s Life Skills internship and was one of the students in attendance when the company took the Financial Literacy Program to the NASDAQ Exchange Closing Bell in May. He did so well in both programs that Varonis gave him a summer job – he said Faitelson told his team, “get this guy an internship!”
Noori’s path through the early stages of the Varonis/Beat the Streets partnership is an example of how effective and impactful giving back can be. His present is secure, and with the connections and experience he’s gained with Beat the Streets and Varonis, his future will be as well.