Year Up Graduation Speech: The Reward of a Thing Well Done

The Foundation’s Grantee Partner Year Up supports young women, ages 18-24, with education and workforce development training, including up to 18 college credits, job skills development and a six-month internship. On January 29, 2015 Year Up will hold its 17th Annual Graduation. Hardworking students who have completed a year of rigorous coursework and internships will celebrate a joyous year of growth and achievement. Marie Sene will be there, not only walking across the stage in triumph, but to deliver the inspiring speech below. Please read Marie’s own words about what the Year Up program, and support from donors like you, has meant in her life:

I am honored to speak on this wonderful occasion surrounded by so much talent and success. I congratulate each of you for the dedication you have shown this year. Our hard work, our grit, our achievements and the sacrifices we have made are being honored here tonight.

We all have our own unique stories and motivations as to what brought us here to Year Up. Some of you may not know, but prior to Year Up (YU) I was undocumented. It was heart breaking for me not to be able to attend college after graduating from high school in 2007. All of my colleagues were finishing college; however, I could not even afford to take a class due to my immigration status.  Once the Dream Act was passed in 2013, I was able to work, but still could not afford college and could not qualify for financial aid. Year Up was that light at the end of a dark tunnel. The program offered me college credits and a stipend while learning a skill that has created a wealth of opportunities for me.

Without a doubt, Year Up has opened many doors for us. They’ve shown me that in life, you have to know what you want and never be afraid to ask for it. Six months ago we were asked to complete a survey to let the internship team know where we wanted to intern. I took a chance and told them that my dream was to work at Google. The Year Up in this region did not have a partnership with Google, but went far and beyond to get that internship. I will forever be grateful to Year Up for what they have done for me. I was the first program student in this region to intern at Google. The pressure was heavy especially from Ty on Year Up’s internship team, who is like “the YU father.” His only four words to me on our way back from our meet and greet from Google were, “Don’t mess it up.”

The whole Google internship was life changing. I must thank my manager Alex; I must say he is the reason I have saved a bit of money. Because of him and the skills I have learned from Google, I can now fix most technical issues. The Marie before Google would tell you: trash it, there is no saving this device—or as he would say, “You can’t win them all.”

Google has given me the best gift in life and that is the gift of education. They have offered to pay for my associate’s degree and offered me a well-paid summer internship until I earn it. Also, I am thankful for the great people I have met through this journey. How many people can say they have met the “father of the Internet”, Vint Cerf? Not too many. His advice for us is not only to use IPv6 (the latest Internet Protocol version), but these words of wisdom: “You cannot plan your life.” He told me, “Never be afraid to take risks, because sometimes we cannot recognize a good opportunity when it presents itself.”

Our year may be up, but our journey is only beginning. Be proud of yourselves because this is only the beginning of your journey. Be proud of yourselves for setting goals and following through; through the tears, through the long nights of staying up to turn homework in and on time. We made it!

Yes, my friends may have all graduated and it may have taken me eight years to get here, but everything has its own time and every dog has his day.

I believe that what should make you the most proud tonight is not the actual honor itself, but what you had to do to get it. As the great poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.” Any recognition is just the icing on the cake, not to be expected, but definitely to be enjoyed.

Finally, I challenge you not to rest on your achievements, but to continue to strive towards even higher goals.

Let’s continue to uplift and empower each other for infinity!

Marie Sene
2015 Graduate

Note: minor editorial changes were made to the content to present the speech in this format.

Foundation Investments Push Early Learning in the Washington Region Forward

The Women’s Foundation’s recently announced investments of $630,000 in economic security efforts across the region included seven grants (totaling $325,000) for organizations working to increase the quality and capacity of, and access to, early care and education. These grants are made through the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative, a collective funding effort led by The Women’s Foundation that brings corporate funders and foundations together to invest in systems-level change in the region’s early care and education. You can learn more about the Collaborative and its partners here.

These investments seek to:

  1. Improve the quality of early care and education for low-income children ages zero to five;
  2. Expand access to affordable early care and education options;
  3. Support professional development for early care and education professionals;
  4. Encourage and strengthen partnerships among stakeholders that support positive changes in the early care and education system.

This year, our early care and education grants continue to support increased advocacy work, an effort that began last year. These investments include Voices for Virginia’s Children, working across Northern Virginia; Prince George’s Child Resource Center, mobilizing in Prince George’s County, Maryland; AppleTree Institute, and a partnership of DC Appleseed and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, focused on the District of Columbia.

The partnership between DC Appleseed and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute is particularly exciting. Together, they are responding to an identified need within DC’s early childhood community: lack of consistent and complete data that captures the cost of quality programs. They will also examine the impending costs facing providers as they adapt to a changing Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), proposed changes in licensing and regulations, the costs of professional development and increased compensation for teachers and the costs of serving children with developmental delays and/or special health care needs. The findings of the study will form the platform for an advocacy agenda, steeped in research data to help advocates rally around a common agenda.

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The Women’s Foundation is proud to be one of many investing in early care and education (with more investors recently, as evidence by the White House Summit on Early Learning). Research shows that young children (ages 0 to 5) need a strong social, emotional and intellectual foundation to succeed in school. Children who enter kindergarten without this foundation for learning are more likely to face significant academic challenges than peers who come prepared. Quality early care and education can successfully close this “preparation gap,” while facilitating the economic security and long-term financial success of low-income families; supporting parents in the workforce; and preparing future workers to meet the needs of the regional business community and become active, contributing members of society.

We look forward to supporting our Grantee Partners as we push these goals forward in our region!

Here’s a full list of this year’s early care and education grants.

2015 Grant Investments in Early Care and Education

  • AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation
    To support AppleTree Institute’s increased communications and advocacy efforts in Washington, DC, aimed at defining quality early education in terms of child outcomes that result in school readiness.
  •  CentroNia
    To support the CentroNía Institute in piloting and testing the Unpacking CLASS Tool Kit, an instructional guide that helps early childhood teachers and center directors improve teacher-child quality interaction in the classroom.
  • DC Appleseed
    To partner with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute to design and produce a study of the District’s child care costs.
  • The Literacy Lab
    To support the Metro DC Reading Corps Pre-K Program, which embeds literacy tutors in DC and Alexandria’s highest-need early childhood classrooms to provide children with daily literacy interventions that prepare them for kindergarten and future educational success.
  • National Black Child Development Institute
    To support the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood DC program, which will invest in the professional development and improved quality of teachers serving children from birth through age five in the District of Columbia.
  • Prince George’s Child Resource Center
    To support Joining Voices, an advocacy project in Prince George’s County that empowers parents and child care providers to articulate the importance of quality child care for family stability, school readiness and economic growth.
  • Voices for Virginia’s Children
    To promote public policies and investments that ensure all children in Northern Virginia, particularly those who are disadvantaged, enter kindergarten ready to succeed.

Community Colleges: Innovations to Improve the Lives of Women

Community CollegeThe Women’s Foundation’s most recent grantmaking round included many investments targeting education and training to help women access good jobs that pay family-sustaining wages and offer benefits. For several years now, these investments have included a focus on community colleges. Research shows that a post-secondary education can have a tremendous impact on earning potential. Community colleges are accessible to first-time or nontraditional students (like working moms)—with local campuses and classes that can accommodate a work or family schedule—and offer the opportunity to partner with employers to meet local workforce needs. For these and other reasons, community colleges offer a pathway out of poverty for women and girls.

This year we renewed our investment in Northern Virginia Community College, where they are taking a two-generation approach to education. Locally and nationally, Northern Virginia Community College is a leader in fostering relationships with community-based partners to better connect with and support the educational attainment of underserved students. Their two-generation work is a relatively new effort to establish partnerships with local child care centers and home-based child care providers to support the post-secondary educational attainment of both lower-income staff and the parents of children in care. The relationship also establishes very early post-secondary exposure for young children (through things like campus field trips) and starts an early conversation with parents about planning for college.

The College’s model offers seamless transitions for students, and provides case management and “intrusive advising”—a proactive approach to connect with students, check in, offer resources and help with career planning—all designed to help address barriers to college success. Women work to achieve post-secondary credentials while simultaneously engaging in college readiness interventions for and with their children. In year two of this new effort, the College plans to enhance its work by expanding the range of college readiness services, and provide asset building and wrap around services to boost post-secondary success, including new screening for public benefits, financial literacy resources and an emergency fund to assist with immediate financial needs. The College is building a model two-generation approach that incorporates many of the strategies that The Women’s Foundation has seen as core to building economic security.

The Foundation is also continuing its investment in Montgomery College. In past years, our Stepping Stones investments have supported direct training and credential attainment for women. This year, our support is aimed at the development and implementation of a new “Student Career Preparation Workshop.” The workshop series will be designed to precede student entry into career training programs, helping women better explore career options and plan for the training they’ll need to reach their goals. That could mean lining up scholarships, or figuring out a plan for child care during school and once they’re working. Exploring career options will also help them better understand what a particular job entails, the career pathways to succeed in the profession and learn about local in-demand fields they might not have considered. By designing a workshop to precede student entry into career training programs—whether open enrollment courses or grant-funded workforce development initiatives, like those Stepping Stones has supported in the past—Montgomery College hopes to help women better-match with training programs, and better support the students who need it most. Once designed and tested, the model has the potential to improve education and employment outcomes for women, and can be replicated or scaled.

Finally, with the Foundation’s support, Prince George’s Community College is providing coaching and supportive services to women at the College pursuing a degree or occupational credential. You can learn more about this life-changing work directly from Sharon, one of their graduates:

Interest in community college programs as a workforce development strategy have grown in recent years, and President Obama’s recent proposal to provide Americans with two free years of community college will certainly bring additional attention. Through innovation, community colleges can better serve women, and therefore help whole families and communities thrive.

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat’s Luncheon Remarks

On October 23, The Women’s Foundation President and CEO, Jennifer Lockwood- Shabat, gave the following remarks at the 2014 Leadership Luncheon. Please click here to see a video of her delivering the speech in its entirety.

Here. Now. For Her. – is this year’s luncheon theme.  I hope as you thought about coming today, you also took a moment to reflect on what this means to you.

Why are you here, now—in this moment?  Who is the “her” in your life who has touched you profoundly, or whose life you have touched? 

For me, this theme is deeply personal. You see, in many ways, I am HER.  And I am here today because of my mother, Dianna Lockwood.

My mom grew up poor in a small town in NH, on a working farm, the youngest of three sisters. She never had the opportunity to go to college.  She met my dad while working as a medical transcriptionist at a VA hospital in Vermont.  He was a physician’s assistant.  They created a wonderful life—two kids and a house they built on 10 acres of land.

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And then the summer I was 10, it all changed. I remember the day well – my mom and dad came home in the middle of the day looking very sad and confused.  It was the early 80s, and many of you will remember, a recession was hitting the country.  The small private doctor’s office in our hometown was struggling financially, so they made a business decision – lay off the person who made the most (my dad) and the person who made the least (my mom). That decision changed our lives forever.

Up until that point, my dad was a high-functioning alcoholic. But being laid off crushed him, and he turned to alcohol frequently and worked only sporadically. We repaired our relationship later in my life, and he was an amazing grandfather to my girls before he passed away 5 years ago. But for the rest of my childhood, it was my mom who got up every day and put one foot in front of the other, consistently working two and three jobs to make ends meet.

I knew that my mom was making great sacrifices so that my brother and I would have the opportunities that she did not.  I could see how tired and stressed she was, and I’m certain there were many days when she’d simply had enough. I learned early on that if I wanted something, I needed to work hard to earn it.  I got my first job at 15.  That summer, and every summer for the rest of high school, I too worked two jobs, selling tickets at the local race track by day and waitressing at the local Pizza Hut by night.

I worked not because I wanted extra spending money, but to pay for basic necessities and do what I could to save for college. My mom always regretted not having that opportunity, but was determined that her children would.  It wasn’t easy financially, and I worked full-time pretty much the entire way, but I am proud to say that I am the first person on my mom’s side of the family to not only get a 4-year degree, but also a master’s degree.

Today is a big deal for my mom.  She’s here, with my husband, my daughters, and my brother.  She’s watching her little girl on stage, running a nonprofit in the nation’s capital, remembering some very dark days, and I know she’s thinking, “Damn, it was all worth it.”

Women's Foundation Luncheon 2014

So, I do what I do because of her. I’ve devoted my career to working on behalf of low-income women and their families because I want her to know that the investment she made in me, all of her sacrifices, were not in vain.  And now that I’m a mother, I have a new, more profound understanding of what she did, and I know that as I strive to make a better life for my own daughters, I am paying forward what my mother has given me.

But, my story is just one story.  There are many, many others.  Thousands of women who do all they can to ensure their children and families can step beyond their own experiences and limitations to live their dreams and achieve their potential.  But sometimes having a dream and working hard is not enough. Sometimes the deck is stacked against you.

There are more than 200,000 women and girls living in poverty across the Washington metropolitan region. Sadly, that statistic hasn’t changed significantly in recent years, particularly in light of the recession and what has now become a slow and prolonged recovery for those most in need. That stat also doesn’t capture the additional 250,000 women and girls who are living just above the poverty line, but certainly aren’t earning enough to make ends meet.

As frustrating as these numbers are, and as impatient as we all are for change, we have to remember that most women in our community didn’t suddenly fall into poverty.  It’s multigenerational.  And just as it didn’t happen overnight, it won’t be resolved overnight.

What does it take to move women and girls from a place of economic vulnerability to security?

The answers to that question and the issues our region faces are complex, but now is the time to stand firm in our commitment, craft a bold vision, and re-double our efforts so that future generations of girls can achieve their dreams. That’s why we launched an innovative two-generation initiative to work with middle school aged girls and their female caregivers—whether that’s a mother, grandmother, or another women responsible for guiding and shaping that girl.

You all remember what it was like to be in middle school. It’s a difficult transition under the best of circumstances. As girls develop into young women, there are clear and critical markers that can support or challenge their future economic security.

Our goals for investing in girls are to support high school completion, develop self-esteem, encourage positive choices, and empower them as social change agents.

Our goals for investing in women are to obtain jobs with family sustaining wages and benefits, support increased financial capability, and provide the foundational skills that allow them to break the cycle of poverty for their children.

In the past year, we’ve been proud to partner with College Success Foundation, DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative and YWCA National Capital Area to help forge collaborations and creative thinking on ways to serve both middle school aged girls and their female caregivers with programming that meets their individual needs, while also bringing them together so that they can support one another on this journey. This work will first launch in Ward 7, but our goal is expand our two-generation work across the region, so that the 53,000 girls currently living in poverty can have a brighter future.

The two-generation strategy actually builds and expands upon a decade of investments in our community that have focused on low-income women and women-headed families specifically. Through our grantmaking program, Stepping Stones, we have invested more than $7 million. And that investment has helped over 10,000 women increase their incomes and assets by $45 million through higher wages, decreased debt, and increased savings.

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Yes, these are impactful outcomes, but I believe we need to think bigger.  We are capable of doing more.  How do we move from 10,000 women to 100,000 or 200,000?  My goal is to, one day, stand before you and say we’ve accomplished this.  And I believe we can do it.

The Women’s Foundation has a powerful voice, and we have a responsibility to use that voice and our power as a convener to affect greater change. Yes, our investments in the community are critically important, but so too is our voice and our deep expertise and knowledge.  These are tools we can leverage, and it’s the combination of our investments and our influence that will ultimately have the greatest impact.

But it’s not just about us.  I know that no one organization can single-handedly end poverty.  This will require unprecedented collaboration and partnership among philanthropy, business, government, nonprofits, and individuals. And we need all of you, here in this room, to help spark a movement. We are poised and ready to lead that movement, and I want each of you to join me. Let’s harness our collective strength to, in turn, strengthen others.

This is the time—NOW.

Because what we do in this moment will shape the future of our communities. There are thousands of women and girls who need us now, more than ever.  Each one of them has hopes and dreams, and they deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Stand with us. 

HERE…NOW…FOR HER.

Thank you.

 

A Look at the 2013 Poverty Data For Our Region

Last month, the U.S. Census Bureau released new data that gives us a snapshot of what poverty was like in 2013 in the Washington region. The data shows that poverty rates have slightly increased from 2012 and that women continue to be more likely than men to experience economic insecurity. This means they can barely afford paying their basic necessities such as food, housing, health insurance, and transportation. Roughly 10 percent, or almost 210,000 women and girls, in our region lived in poverty, compared with 159,700 men and boys, or 8 percent. Things were worst for families headed by single mothers—almost a quarter were poor— and for women of color—about 14 percent of Latinas and 16 of percent of African-American women struggled with poverty compared with only 6 percent of White women.

Poverty Data chart

There are many reasons why families fall below the poverty threshold, including unemployment, the persistent gender wage gap, barriers to accessing education and discrimination. But one of the key factors is low-quality and low-income jobs. Many women in our region are working more than full-time at poverty-level wages with little to no benefits. That means, for example, supporting a family of four with less than $24,000  last year.  In a region like ours, where costs of housing, food and transportation are among the highest in the nation, $24,000 is not nearly enough to make a living. According to the Economic Security Index calculated by Wider Opportunities for Women, a family of four composed of two workers, an infant and a school child need an approximate annual income of $117,880 in the District of Columbia and $103,960 in Prince George’s County, for example, to meet their basic needs without receiving any public or private assistance.

The newly released data highlights the urgency of the work we are doing at The Women’s Foundation. In collaboration with our Grantee Partners we are helping women access basic education, enroll in workforce development programs, access financial education programs and find high-quality and affordable early care and education for their children. Such efforts help build their economic security and give them the opportunity to achieve their goals. Securing stable employment with living wages can alleviate the burden of living pay-check to pay-check and the constant worrying about how to make ends meet and care for their families, while allowing them to save and plan for a bright future.

Based on the stories we hear from our Grantee Partners and learn from our evaluation efforts we know we are impacting women’s lives. Maya was enrolled in one of YearUp’s workforce development programs. The odds were against her. She was living in a low-cost housing complex for mothers with many rules that made her participation in the program more challenging. She had to miss several days to take care of her sick child and money was always a concern for her, but she pushed through these obstacles and exceled at her classes and job internship. Upon graduation from the program she secured a full-time job with benefits and a salary that lifted her and her son out of poverty and changed the trajectory of their lives.

As we continue supporting the work of our Grantee Partners many more lives and families like Maya’s will be impacted. In the meantime, the updated poverty numbers are an important reminder that the work we do together is crucial to our community. We still have a long way to go before we realize a future where all women are economically secure.

 

High School Credential Opening Doors of Opportunity

The Adult and Family Literacy Month blog post below is written by  Lecester Johnson, Executive Director of The Women’s Foundation’s Grantee Partner, Academy of Hope.

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Beverly S., a recent graduate of Academy of Hope, exclaimed, “Getting my high school diploma is the best!” She adds, “It’s so good to take on a challenge and complete it. It (a high school credential) is already opening up new doors of opportunity for me!”

Beverly, like so many adults in Washington, DC, was desperate to get her high school credential and begin to turn her life around.  She was one of the lucky ones.  More than 64,000 adults in the District of Columbia lack a high school credential but the city only serves about 7,000 residents through its locally funded adult education programs and adult charter schools. In recent years, Academy of Hope has had a waiting list of over 200 adults each term with the goal of obtaining their GED or improving their academic skills to obtain a better job or to enter college. According to the U.S. Department of Education, over 30 million adults lack a high school credential in the U.S.  Across the city, adult education providers report long waiting lists for their services. Yet, for the last ten years, national and local funding has continued to decline, with more cuts to come due to sequestration.

Adult education has been the easy target for cuts as we blame adults for squandering an opportunity – one that some would argue, given the life circumstance of many who drop out, never existed. The ramifications of continued funding cuts in adult education have begun to reveal themselves. The release of survey results from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competency (PIAAC) last fall confirmed what many in adult education already knew. American adults are not doing well in literacy, numeracy or problem solving skills compared to other countries. The impact of low literacy extends beyond the adult with low skills. PIACC findings indicate that more than any of the 24 nations participating in the survey, a U.S. parent’s literacy and socioeconomic status had the greatest impact on a child’s ability to succeed in school. Because of this, it is not surprising that U.S. results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA are also lagging. PISA is designed to test whether high school students can apply what they’ve learned in school to real-life problems.

When dealing with the drop-out crisis, elected officials often cite stopping the pipeline of dropouts as a justification for increased funding in K-12 education. The pipeline, however, begins with the parent. Parents with strong literacy skills can better help their children do homework, study and succeed in school. According to a 2012 Urban Institute report, young adults whose parents have a high school diploma are more likely to complete high school than are those whose parents do not. They are also less likely to live in poverty.

Beverly S., who is also a mother of two, illustrates the key role a parent’s literacy plays. She says her life has been a struggle but she managed to get by, and she always instilled in her children the importance of learning and finishing high school. Both of her children graduated high school. Her example is also motivating her son to continue his training as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and work towards a stable career.

Beverly has already begun to reap the benefits of her education. Most recently, she applied and was accepted to Public Allies’ DC fellowship program. Through Public Allies, she has been placed at Academy of Hope and serves as our Student Navigator, providing support for fellow adult learners! She says her plan after her 10-month Public Allies fellowship is to enroll in college to study business management. With her high school diploma in hand, Beverly is aiming for a career, not just a job. Her goal is to own her own business, become a consultant to help other small businesses and nonprofits, and someday buy a house of her own.

In Her Words: Transportation Barriers

Katrice Brooks is a student at our Grantee Partner SOME’s Center for Employment Training (CET). Below, Katrice writes about her struggles with transportation and how her long, expensive commute affects her life and prospects for the future.

People opt to use public transportation for a variety of reasons: some to save on the cost of fuel and car maintenance, others to get back the time that they were losing driving.  Despite the benefits of driving enjoyed by few, some have no choice in the matter.

As a single mother and full time student, when I think of public transportation one word comes to mind: bittersweet. I am required to get up before the sun has risen every day of the week to take my daughter to daycare and to be at school before 8:30am.  My daughter, Lauren, is 20 months old, and because it is usually  so early in the morning, I have to carry her in one arm with my school books in the other because she is usually still asleep.  Traffic jams are very common during rush hours, meaning even more time on the bus, in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and less time spent where I really want to be. I spend most Katrice-Quote-july-enewsof my time on public transportation, catching the eight buses a day I need to make it to where I need to be on time.  In this modern society, this is what I have to do to access my education, jobs, events and social network.

This commute affects the opportunities I would like to take advantages of to provide a better life for my daughter and me.  I am currently without a car, and the required fare needed to ride public transportation interferes with my family’s health, housing, medical bills, even food.  I am not willing to limit my daughter’s education quality due to transportation restrictions or be forced to change my preferred job options because of difficulty accessing affordable transportation choices. I cannot begin to mention the drop in my social activities caused by inadequate transportation. I’ve become isolated and miss normal social interactions. My daughter, Lauren’s, face is the reason I smile.  Every moment my daughter rises and opens her eyes, I want to be there for her.  With challenges like daycare, long daily commutes, feeding and preparing Lauren for bed, she’s too tired to do anything else, so I sing her favorite songs and off she goes to sleep preparing her little body for the next day ahead. Then I begin the load of work that has to be done before returning to class the next day.

I have decided to make a change in our lives.  With all the time we spend on public transportation, I don’t want to have to worry myself with a pick-pocket, or an irate and noisy commuter. Imagine how wearisome it can be when someone beside you is drunk, and you have to keep an eye on them the entire commute, all the while praying that they won’t harm your baby girl.   The SOME Center for Employment Training has been extremely helpful by providing me transportation assistance in the form of a smart trip card, but with the kind of commute I have on a daily basis it is nowhere near the amount I need to make ends meet.   Public transportation is an importation part of my life, but I am writing this essay to speak about the problems with public transportation, not only for myself, but also for other single mothers and passengers.

2014 Grants Will Help 6,000 Women & Girls

4-sq-GPFor me – as for many others – January is my “clean slate.”  No, it’s not about New Year’s resolutions.  For Washington Area Women’s Foundation, it’s a chance to celebrate the over $1 million in grants our board approved in December, and to exhale and plan for the work all of these Grantee Partners will be leading in our community this year.

This year’s Grantee Partners are employing a variety of strategies to help increase the economic security of women and girls in the Washington region.

  • Our workforce development Grantee Partners are providing a range of services along a continuum: adult basic education, post-secondary education and training, occupational credentials, job training programs, job placement, retention and advancement strategies. Grantee Partners are also continuing to provide intensive case management and supportive services that are critical to the success of low-income women.  And they’re targeting jobs that are high-demand and high-wage, with opportunities for advancement.
  • Our asset building Grantee Partners are working to help women build their collective income and assets.  They’re helping women access the Earned Income Tax Credit, learn the basics of credit, savings, and how to budget, and build assets through homeownership and matched savings accounts.
  • Our early care and education Grantee Partners are increasing the quality and capacity of, and access to, early care and education in the Washington region.  Grantee Partners are providing professional development, training and coaching for early care and education professionals (family child care providers, child care center staff, and pre-k teachers), to improve the quality of care available for low-income children ages 0 to 5.  They’re also mobilizing important advocacy efforts, to preserve and grow investments in early care and education – so that low-income children will be prepared for kindergarten, and parents can access this important work support.

Last – but not least!! – we’re very excited to have three new Grantee Partners, working to develop two-generation strategies that will serve middle school girls and their mothers.  You can brush up on our issue brief here for more on the thinking behind this work.  We’ll keep you updated as this new work in our community unfolds.  Until then, check out all the great work we’re supporting in 2014:

Academy of Hope
To support low-income women in Washington, DC with adult basic education, as well as connections and preparation for post-secondary education or advanced career/vocational training.  Funding will also support the launch of Academy of Hope Public Charter School as a resource for adult learners in the District.

AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation
To support AppleTree Institute’s increased communications and advocacy efforts in Washington, DC, aimed at defining quality early education in terms of child outcomes that result in school readiness.

Capital Area Asset Builders
To support financial education and coaching for low-income women referred through partner nonprofit programs.  A cohort of these women will also have access to Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), to provide matched savings opportunities.

CASA de Maryland
To support the Women’s Workforce Initiative, which increases economic outcomes among low-income, immigrant women through industry-recognized vocational training, work readiness supports, job placement assistance, and other support services.

CentroNia
To support the CentroNía Institute’s work linking bilingual coaches with Early Head Start/Head Start teachers, center-based teachers, and parents to develop and implement evidence-based strategies for child development, language development, and second language acquisition at home and in the early childhood classroom.

College Success Foundation – District of Columbia*
To support planning for two-generation work that serves middle school aged girls and their mothers or female caregivers.

Community Tax Aid
To help low-income women increase assets by reducing tax liabilities and receiving tax credits for which they qualify, and by avoiding tax penalties, high fee preparation services and predatory products.

DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative*
To support planning for two-generation work that serves middle school aged girls and their mothers or female caregivers.

Doorways for Women and Families
To support the intensive Financial Independence Track (FIT) for women experiencing homelessness and/or domestic violence who live in shelters or transition-in-place housing programs. The program includes one-on-one financial education and employment counseling.

Fairfax Futures
To support the Neighborhood School Readiness Project, a community model that links early care and education stakeholders to elementary school administrators and teachers. The project includes outreach to families to increase awareness and activities that support school readiness and one-to-one mentoring for family child care providers implementing curriculum.

Goodwill of Greater Washington
To support job training and placement services for low-income women in the region, with a focus on hospitality and security/protective services.

Latino Economic Development Center
To support the financial capability initiative, which will provide coaching and financial tools to low-income women.

Mission: Readiness
To support a “grasstops” media, public, and policymaker education campaign to expand early learning opportunities for children in the Washington region, with particular emphasis on Northern Virginia.

Montgomery College Foundation
To support training, coaching and job opportunities within the Apartment Industry and commercial driving industries for low-income Montgomery County women.

National Black Child Development Institute
To support T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood DC, a nationally-recognized, research-based program that improves the quality of teachers serving children birth through age five, while also supporting systemic change in the early care and education system.

Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington
To support the Capital Area Foreclosure Network, a joint initiative with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, that supports housing counseling agencies in the region.

Northern Virginia Community College Educational Foundation*
To support the educational attainment of low-income women in Northern Virginia, including both early care providers and mothers of young children, through the Early Childhood Education Initiative.

 Northern Virginia Family Service
To support the Training Futures program, which will help low-income women complete education and training, and secure entry-level office or health care jobs.

Prince George’s Child Resource Center
To support Joining Voices, an advocacy project for Prince George’s County that empowers parents and child care providers to articulate the importance of quality child care for family stability, school readiness and economic growth.

Prince George’s Community College Foundation
To support the Women of Wisdom program, which will provide coaching and supportive services to low-income women at the college pursuing a degree or occupational credential.

So Others Might Eat (SOME)
To support the Center for Employment Training, which will prepare low-income women for careers in the health care and building maintenance industries by providing job training, basic education, career development assistance and supportive services.

The Training Source
To support Hospitality Express 4 Success, a partnership of The Training Source, Prince George’s Community College, and the Community Services Agency of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, to offer training, education, job placement and retention services focused on the hospitality sector for a cohort of low-income 18-26 year old women in Prince George’s County.

Voices for Virginia’s Children
To support efforts to promote public policies and investments that ensure all children in Northern Virginia, particularly those who are disadvantaged, enter kindergarten ready to succeed.

YWCA of the National Capital Area
To support planning for two-generation work that serves middle school aged girls and their mothers or female caregivers.

Year Up National Capital Region
To support young women, ages 18-24, with education and workforce development training, including up to 18 college credits, job skills development, and a six-month internship.

Urban Alliance Foundation
To support young women in the High School Internship Program, which provides work experience, mentoring and life skills training, and is the only year-long employment program for high school seniors in Washington, DC.

* First-time Grantee Partner

Lauren is a program officer at The Women’s Foundation.

Sharon Williams Luncheon Remarks

Sharon-SpeakingOn October 23, Sharon Williams spoke at The Women’s Foundation’s 2013 Leadership Luncheon. The following are her remarks. After speaking, Sharon received a Visionary Award for her commitment to improving the lives of women and their families. Please click here to learn more about the Visionary Awards and click here to see a video featuring Sharon and her story.

Good afternoon everyone- It is kind of strange seeing myself up there on the big screen.  As I listen to myself talk – it really does remind me of how much my life has changed. You saw a little of my story in the video, and I’d like to share a bit more with you now.

Upwards of 10 years ago, my life was very different. I spent a lot time asking God, “Why me?”

I was in high school – 10th grade to be exact when I had my first child. I’m not sure if I was afraid – but I can tell you that I was more determined than ever to be and make a difference for my child. Part of that difference was getting married – which I did at 17.  By the time I was 21 years old, I had two children, my own successful daycare business, three vehicles and I purchased my first home – with a white picket fence. I decided that having a daycare was the best thing because I wanted to spend time with my children and everything that I did was for them.

That all sounds nice, but my personal situation was not good, but as I look back on it now I still feel like I made the right decisions especially with the cards that I had been dealt.

And then – life happened.   I got divorced. I closed my business – moved out of my home into an apartment– shared custody of my children and I felt cheated. I began to ask God, “Why me? I’ve done my best – I’ve tried so hard to be a better person and now look!”

I was getting frustrated with life itself and something within me stirred up like a fire and once again – I wanted to make this situation better for my children.

I began taking classes at Prince George’s Community College.   I learned about the Next Step Training and Education Program and I wanted to try it out.

This was one of the best decisions that I could have made.  The Next Step program not only assisted me with tuition but I was also given additional supportive services and tools to aid in my future success.  One of the most rewarding on the most rewarding gift that I took away from the program is a lifelong mentor in Cecelia Knox, the program’s director.

Once I was accepted into the nursing program I was ecstatic!  You would have thought that I hit the Powerball ten times over – and I don’t even play the lottery!

I want you to understand how huge it was for me to go back to school. College was never a goal for me. So you can imagine how shocked I was not only to be back in school… not only to be passing all of my classes… but getting a 4.0 GPA!

I must say to you all – and especially Cecelia – I am so grateful that the Next Step program was in place to assist me when life happened. What do I mean by “life happening?” What I mean is this: When circumstances place you in situations beyond your immediate control. No two situations are the same, and I know everyone in this room can relate to that.

Next Step put me back in control. You see life wasn’t just happening to me but it was I that decided what life would be.

For me, that meant becoming a registered nurse at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center. It meant an opportunity to provide my children with more stability and security.  It meant taking advantage of opportunities to travel the world – and I have.

I received a full scholarship to Notre Dame of MD University to complete my Bachelor’s Degree.  I traveled to Australia and South Africa – learning about their health care systems and volunteering with TB clinics and HIV orphanages.  I visited Nelson Mandela’s prison cell – I walked in his garden – I strolled in the limestone quarry – just like he did.

But what made a most lasting effect on me was my visit to a nursing home – because that’s where I met Mrs. Christian.  She was a proud elderly South African woman who grew up in the brutality of apartheid.

I sat at her feet as she told our group about seeing the horrors of families being ripped apart and how she stood on the front line with the activists in fight to end to apartheid. Although her comments were towards the group as a whole – she looked into my eyes as she spoke – and I found myself once again asking God, “Why me?”

“I have fought for you to be free,” she said. “And you are under obligation to take advantage of the education available to you and use it to better yourself, your family and your community!”

And she told me – me – that she was proud of me and in that moment my priorities in life changed and my thinking changed and I made a conscious effort to see greatness in others.

I began to believe within myself that if given the opportunity – people living in less than ideal conditions and having less than ideal situations could and would do great things – and  honestly my friends – that is the belief that NSTEP had in me.

As a Registered Nurse I have helped a lot of people old and young alike and I have found babies to be the most interesting species of them all.

Some of them come out kicking and screaming and ready to run for the world and others are born not so active.  They need extra attention – maybe some oxygen and a sternal rub in order to get them to breathe – to get their arms flailing and their legs kicking so they too can be ready to run for the world.

It’s that way for adults sometimes too –  Some are fortunate enough to have had a background and upbringing that allowed them to take off running – while Others need that sternal rub so to speak to help us breath again and give us the strength to stand up and take off for the world as it were –  And when we do – it’s a beautiful thing.

It’s been about two years now since my trip to South Africa and I have worked hard to help others. I know that I have encouraged and inspired others to go back to school.   I often have the privilege of returning to Prince George’s Community College to speaking with women in orientation for the Next Step program and I listen to their stories – I listen to their hopes and dreams without judgment – because I remember being in their seat.

Today, I work roughly 10 miles from where I grew up. Knowing my history – knowing where I come from and where I am now has caused me to ask at times:  Am I one in a million? A needle in a haystack – No.   There are many success stories emerging from the streets of S.E. Washington, DC just like mine.  How? Because we have been given an opportunity and found someone to believe in us more than we believed in ourselves and for me – that was Cecelia Knox and Ms. Myrtle Christian.

Today, my conversations with God are very different. I say a humbled thank you for my 22-year-old son who is my pride and joy – for my 20-year-old daughter who completed high school at 15 years old and is now is studying to become a child psychologist… and for my 11-year-old daughter who is smart and so talented and plays the violin exceptionally well!

Today, I say thank you to God for the courage to keep my head up despite adversity and for allowing me to become an example for those who have the potential to succeed although they may not even realize it – yet.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to be with you fine people today and have you hear my story.  I am grateful that The Women’s Foundation invests in places like Prince George’s Community College – a place that has assisted me in my present and future successes – and hopefully I have been able to show you that what appears to be impossible is possible.

Today, I place you all under obligation to take advantage of what is before you and join me in making our community better than it was yesterday.

Thank you.

Holly Fischer Storms Capitol Hill

This guest blog post was written by Goodwill of Greater Washington, a Women’s Foundation Grantee Partner. The Foundation invests in Goodwill’s job training and support services programs. On October 23rd, Foundation supporters will have another opportunity to support Goodwill by participating in a clothing drive. Bring business clothes and accessories to the 2013 Leadership Luncheon, and help the women and men who participate in Goodwill’s job training programs.

It seems like everywhere you turn these days you hear words like “furlough” and “sequestration.”  Recent budget cuts have cost many federal employees their livelihoods; and with Goodwill of Greater Washington having nine federal contract sites, it has been an issue of serious concern for us.

This past June, Goodwill of Greater Washington participated in Source America’s “Grassroots Advocacy Day.” This event gives agencies from across the country who employ and support individuals with disabilities the opportunity to visit our nation’s capital and advocate to Congress in support of employment for those they serve. This year’s advocacy day focused on attempts to ensure that individuals with disabilities who work in government facilities are not affected by sequestration. Goodwill of Greater Washington was fortunate to be represented by President and CEO Catherine Meloy, Vice President of Contracts Tony Garza, and Holly Fischer who is employed at our U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) contract site. Holly is back to her regular work schedule today, but the recent government shutdown makes voices like hers more important than ever.

When Holly first arrived on Capitol Hill she was very nervous because she wasn’t used to public speaking. “In school I always wanted to be the one holding the flag in the assemblies,” she said. “I never wanted to have a speaking part.”

However, Source America provided several classes for the hand-selected group of advocates to help them become more comfortable with public speaking. With that training Holly felt prepared to take on the opportunity before her.

“A job is more than a way to make money; it is a way to a feeling of self-worth,” Holly told a Senator’s aide. “I know what it’s like to have a hard time finding a job and I know what it’s like to be laid off.” Holly continued by emphasizing the work ethic that she learned as a child. “My father taught me how to work hard and I know how to work hard,” she added. “I appreciate the opportunity to work for Goodwill through the Ability One Program.”

Holly hopes to visit Capitol Hill again one day. Those who saw her in action believe she is a powerful and eloquent speaker. But Holly only wants our elected officials to walk away with one message: that she would not be able to find a good job without the help of Goodwill. “It was well worth it,” Holly said with pride. “If it’s advocating for my job, I will advocate to keep my job. And I will advocate for those who are disabled.”

Holly is a woman of bold conviction who is not only willing to stand up for herself but also for those around her who share similar challenges in life.  Goodwill of Greater Washington is proud to have someone like Holly as an ambassador for our cause!