Jesús Gerena is CEO of UpTogether (previously Family Independence Initiative), a national organization with a bold mission of changing policies, systems, and underlying beliefs so that all people in the United States are seen and invested in for their strengths and are able to build power, reinforce their autonomy, and drive their own economic and social mobility.

Under Jesús’ leadership, UpTogether has  developed a model for systemic change through philanthropic and government partnerships to support the broad adoption of UpTogether’s strength based approach of centering  community, cash and choice. Over the past three years, UpTogether has grown its work and organizational capacity to expand its reach to all 50 states and Puerto Rico, distributing $190 million dollars in support of its mission.

A native of Puerto Rico, Jesús moved with his mother and siblings to Amherst, Massachusetts at just nine years old. This community was full of resources that were able to lift up opportunities for his family to achieve their goals. Despite struggling in deep poverty, Jesús learned firsthand at a young age the benefits of a support network and community. This life experience has shaped Jesús, fueling his desire to eliminate place, race, or economic position as the marker for individual and collective success through UpTogether.

My Truth

We do not need to help people more; we need to hinder them less. Poverty is not caused by personal failures. It’s rooted in system choices, nurtured by institutional racism, that disinvest and fragment communities. Our people and communities are the solution, let’s invest in them.

Stories featuring Jesús Gerena

The Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation Community Phase II sought to find and foster the most effective and innovative strategies to accelerate social ...
Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation CommunityMay 3, 2023
Text over a landscape of South Africa
Tiana C. McCoy – Senior Associate, Operations and Convenings at Ascend – provides an inside look at the experience of a Fellows Forum.
BlogMay 2, 2023
Poverty is the result of poor policy choices. These choices reflect our national values and decide who deserves access to opportunity to achieve their...
Ascend FellowshipJanuary 21, 2022
In order for America to thrive, our families must thrive. This is the understanding of Ascend at the Aspen Institute, a program dedicated to mobilizin...
Ascend FellowshipOctober 7, 2021
Ascend is honored that our Executive Director Anne Mosle has been named to the Holding Co.’s CARE 100 List, a first-of-its-kind list of the people d...
BlogOctober 23, 2020
Smiling Family With Parents Giving Children Piggyback Rides In Garden At Home
Contact: Lindsay Broyhill Ascend at the Aspen Institute  Bold Leaders to Advance Innovative Strateg...
BlogJuly 22, 2020

Convenings Featuring Jesús Gerena

Location: Virtual & In-Person in Washington, DC
Over the course of two days, our discussions focused on bold, equitable, and pragmatic strategies for building prosperity and well-being for all families. Sessions include insights from the latest two-generation (2Gen) family data, examples of...
ConveningApril 11, 2023 – April 12, 2023
Location: Washington, DC & Virtual
Lift up your heads and lower your shoulders: these Ascend Fellows will provide a dose of inspiration and action as they share their big ideas for intergenerational opportunity in 2023 and beyond.
ConveningApril 12, 2023