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The Career Immersion & Leadership Institute (CILI) is on a mission to create, find, and strengthen pathways for college students of color to access employment opportunities and competitive wages throughout Louisiana.  

Our flagship fellowship program connects BIPOC students to paid internship opportunities in Louisiana and provides nearly a year of soft skill development training to support both personal and professional growth and success as students transition from academic to adult life. 


CILI is bridging the gap between higher education and meaningful employment for students of color and enhancing corporate DEI initiatives in the process.  

Since 2021, our fellowship program has equipped 74 BIPOC college students with the skills, connections, and experience they need to attain and succeed in corporate careers. Fellows take part in year-round personal and professional development programming that includes: 

  • Monthly workshops on topics ranging from business etiquette to professional branding

  • One-on-one soft skill coaching and individualized support on career fit, aptitudes, interview skills, and more 

  • Self-directed online learning and assigned readings 

CILI has also helped place 65 fellows into paid internships and, in the process, supported improved DEI practices across 22 local participating employers. 


CILI was founded in 2019 by entrepreneur and Human Resources executive Perry Sholes in response to the pervasive diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues he witnessed in Louisiana while working with some of the country’s leading consumer products companies. In particular, Sholes saw the need for an organization that could connect local BIPOC students to corporate employers, who too often fail to tap into diverse talent pools from the local market during recruitment. 

In Sholes’s home state of Louisiana, people of color reach increasingly higher levels of educational attainment but have yet to close sizeable disparities in the workforce, with data showing that Black college graduates lag behind their white peers in high-wage job attainment, despite the presence of six HBCUs in Louisiana. Due to historic, systemic inequities, many BIPOC college graduates do not have access to networks of professionals who can open doors to high-earnings career pathways. This unequal access results in stark disparities in generational wealth: according to the Brookings Institute, the median net worth of a white family in 2016 was nearly 10x that of the average Black family.  

Meanwhile, Louisiana continues to struggle with talent retention. Though several college- and career-readiness programs exist for Louisiana high school students, there are no other programs of CILI’s magnitude focused explicitly on preparing college students of color for professional success, nor on keeping that talent in Louisiana. 

 a 501(3) non-profit organization


Office: 504-313-4828
Fax: 504-285-6386


Career Immersion & Leadership Institute
3157 Gentilly Blvd Suite # 2184
New Orleans, LA 70122

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