By Robbie Owens

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – UNT Dallas is looking to take learning beyond the classroom.

It’s launching a new mentor program to give selected students access to business leaders and CEOs, who realize that hiring ‘career-ready’ workers, begins with grooming them in house.

“Because we need to see someone,” says freshman Juwon Grant. “We need to believe that there is a way for us to succeed.”

Grant, who is majoring in logistics and supply chain management, was one of the students invited to the launch of a new leadership academy. Through a partnership with an Austin-based company called ‘YTexas’, selected students will be offered mentor opportunities with local executives.

“The real world is the real world,” says YTexas CEO Ed Curtis. “The only way to experience that is to be in it and I think giving them that experience ahead of time can only help in the future, and it helps employers with those career ready students.”

University leaders say 71 percent of UNT Dallas students are first-generation college scholars, but University President Bob Mong says their students respond well to “pathway opportunities.”

“Were they can see them taking a step that leads somewhere, and this mentorship program allows them to meet with CEOs, learn from CEOs. That’s very exciting to me,” says President Mong. “It’s very exciting for them.”

Among the executives on hand to show support for the mentorship launch, Robbie Briggs, CEO of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International, one of the most successful real estate companies in the world. He says career readiness is about more than classwork and technical know-how.

“Those are good skills, but you still have to have the personal relationship skills,” says Briggs. “That’s just part of doing business. Part of doing life.”

He specifically recalled meeting a student who even at today’s luncheon launch, made an impression.

“The young lady that came up to me was full of enthusiasm, was not afraid to hand me her business card, tell me what she was studying. That’s the beginning of building a relationship.”

And the support of CEOs and business leaders like Briggs speaks volumes about the respect that UNT Dallas has garnered as it works to bring economic parity to an underserved community.

“Ya know, some people are born on third base, it’s just the way it is,” says President Mong. “Our students aren’t born on third base, so any help they can get will bring them along.”

Students will need to apply for available spots in the inaugural leadership class. The program is being made available to those attending UNT Dallas through the Dallas County Promise. The program offers free tuition and support for students graduating from select Dallas County High Schools with no income or GPA requirements.

“Meeting these CEOs, it didn’t do anything but encourage me to continue to push and know that ‘hey, there’s a possibility, there’s a chance, and if there’s a chance, I’m going to take that chance’,” says Grant. “I’m gonna sign up for this. No question about it!”