This year, we couldn’t be more proud than to bring back KIPP Bay Area, Summer Search, Juma Ventures, BUILD, and Year Up into our portfolio. And with open arms, we welcome College Track into the family.
We gain greater clarity on what organizations inspire us the most with each grant cycle. The common thread across our partners: most of these organizations are providing our Bay Area under-resourced youth with the tools to not only graduate from college, but to also prepare them to be successful upon entering the workforce. With the support of these organizations, we hope these students will one day lead productive and prosperous lives; to have developed the skills, work ethic, and character that will enable them to be positive, contributing leaders and members of society. Across all our interactions, we realized that conversations about the achievement gap and skills gap were actually one and the same. What was the ultimate outcome we wanted for our students? It wasn’t enough for them to just graduate from high school or enroll into college. And of course, we wanted all our students to graduate from college but what purpose is a college degree if they entered the workforce without the 21st Century skills to be a valuable employee?
Our under-resourced students needed to not only graduate from college, but to be ready to take on the world . . . And be awesome at it!
In order to do this, we realized that we were not just looking for organizations that provided academic support or a specific curriculum (STEM, coding, literacy, etc.). We sought organizations that also provided the students a mentor relationship, college access and in-college support, career exposure, and a keen focus on developing attributes such as grit, persistence, critical thinking and problem solving skills, etc.
For an organization like KIPP, based on academic research from thought leaders such Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman, they took an intentional approach to incorporating character into their classrooms. They even created a Character Growth Card to provide students specific feedback on their development.
For Juma Ventures, their youth gain valuable, real-world experience by working in various social enterprises. This was complemented with a financial literacy curriculum that positioned their youth to surpass one more barrier to college graduation and to break the cycle of poverty by building assets.
In addition to this, each organization is innovative in both their programming and operations. Based on data and a keen self-awareness, they acknowledge their failures and identify them as opportunities to improve support for their youth and strengthen their own organization.
Summer Search’s self-awareness helped them realize they were struggling to retain student mentors – mentors who often bore the weight of their students’ emotional challenges. After conducting a listening tour, Summer Search strategically invested significant resources to increase mentor support including outside trauma assistance, additional training, improved hours, and staffing to manage administrative tasks.
We will continue to learn from our grantees, other leading non-profits, education thought leaders, philanthropists, and the very students we serve.
This year, we seek to deepen our relationship with our current partners as our board engages their leadership and the youth they support. We also look forward to learning more about personalized learning and other tools addressing the skills gap.
These organizations are the ones on the ground, fighting the fight for our students each day, and we could not be more proud to be able to call them our partners. We are truly humbled and inspired by the work they do.