HKS Alumnus Steers Apex Through Rough Times

September 9, 2013
By Jenny Li Fowler, HKS Communications

Preeti Sriratana MC/MPA 2012 took the helm of Apex for Youth Inc. (Apex) in early 2009 during a financial crisis and has steered it towards becoming one of the largest mentoring programs for Asian and immigrant youth in New York City today.

Founded in 1992, Apex, a nonprofit youth organization originally known as Asian Professional Extension Inc., works with children from underserved communities in New York City by connecting them with professionals who volunteer to mentor them. Through culturally tailored after school programs, Apex serves youth from first through twelfth grades — helping them build self confidence, explore academic and career goals, develop a sense of community and service, and gain leadership skills.

Sriratana joined Apex in 2001 as a fourth grade prep volunteer, eventually becoming a middle and high school mentor before taking on the role of president/chairman. When Sriratana took on the new position the organization was in financial ruin, facing possible bankruptcy. Working with the board and what remained of the team, Sriratana helped to rebuild Apex by retooling its model, growing it almost 50 percent two years in a row, and co-founding and incubating a charter school built from its programs.

"There was still a long road ahead," says Sriratana. "I wanted to be strategic about how to achieve the organization’s long-term goals. I chose the Mid-Career/MPA Program to learn how to become a better chairman for my organization. With the tools I gained from HKS and its incredible faculty, I was able to lead my organization through difficult changes and measurably increase its impact in my community."

Upon graduating from the Kennedy School, Sriratana continued to grow Apex approximately 50 percent for a fourth year in a row. Today, the organization serves approximately 500 children from more than 50 schools across New York City. While a majority of the area's youth have a one out of four high school drop out rate, Apex’s children achieve a 95 percent college attendance rate - and the organization continues to grow.

Sriranta is also the co-founder and chief operating officer of Sweeten.com, an award-winning website that helps home and small business owners with renovation needs find architects, designers and general contractors for their projects. He is also Founder of AU, a New York City-based design consultancy that specializes in hospitality spaces with projects in New York City, Las Vegas and London.

Asian-Americans Build a Network to Help Students
The New York Times — APEX started with 35 11th graders in Chinatown, who signed up after they heard about the program at their neighborhood schools.

Today, APEX has enlisted more than 100 volunteers and hired a full-time staff of five to run its programs out of a 2,000-square-foot office in the garment district.

The organization’s annual budget of $484,000 is financed through donations and grants.

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