Robert Reffkin
Berkeley, California
NFTE Class of 1995

It would have been quite easy for Robert Reffkin’s life to dissolve into chaos. Abandoned by his father and raised by a single mother, as a child he was often surrounded by peers who used drugs and followed negative life paths. However, in spite of the hard times his family experienced, his mother had an idealistic vision of her country- she believed in the American dream of equal opportunity- and it was due to his mother’s resilience, love and resourcefulness that Robert overcame potentially destructive circumstances.

Although Robert was ambitious and a hard worker, he was having problems creating a financially sound business model for his DJing company that he started in order to help his struggling mother. He also found that he was having problems getting schools and clients to take him seriously and consider him a professional. Robert credits NFTE with helping him to create a professional contract to show he was reliable and teaching him critical business and professional skills that he lacked.

“I attribute all of my success to the support and encouragement I received from NFTE. I am therefore committed to repaying their confidence in me and have assumed teaching and leadership positions in several outreach programs, thus helping to provide hundreds of at-risk youth with resources to overcome the limits of their environments.”

Robert attended Columbia University, paid for with the money he made from his successful DJ venture, followed by receiving his MBA from Columbia as well.

“My personal experiences prove that students can thrive when given proper encouragement, training and opportunities.”

Robert is currently the Founder and CEO of Compass. Previously, Robert worked at Goldman Sachs as Chief of Staff to the President & COO following five years working in the firm’s private equity arm. In 2005, he was appointed as a White House Fellow to serve as special assistant to the Secretary of Treasury. He started the non-profit organization, New York Needs You, and is currently in the process of starting a new business. Outside of work, Robert is running 50 marathons, one in each state, to raise $1M for nonprofits.