The Access to Opportunity Initiative built on the experiences of the Empowerment Initiative, a strategy through which the Foundation made grants in several areas including youth development, adult education and domestic violence from 2006 through 2011. These grants were focused on empowering individuals to make positive changes in their lives. The Access to Opportunity Initiative continued this work but with a sharper focus on education and pre-vocational training, which we view as essential preparation for achieving economic security.
This Initiative had two distinct funding strategies:
- Increasing Access to and Persistence in Education for Adult Learners
- Promoting Post-Secondary Success for Youth
In the adult education area, the Foundation aimed to increase access to education for adult English language learners and college completion for adults transitioning from GED, ESOL or from having interrupted their educations. In addition, the Foundation funded programs that focused on quality preparation of all adult students for post-secondary education and training, assistance in applying to colleges or certificate programs, and support for students through to completion.
Towards post-secondary success for youth, the Foundation supported programs that demonstrate best practices for college preparation, transition to college and college support once enrolled. In the pre-vocational training area, the Foundation supported programs that incorporated skill building, opportunities for apprenticeships, career mentoring and other work experiences.
In both the adult education and youth development areas, the Foundation also funded projects that worked on a systemic level to achieve the goals of the Initiative, for example, through research, training, pilot projects, interagency collaboration, and public policy work.
Since the inception of the Initiative, 127 grants totaling about $3.5 million have been made, benefitting 42 organizations.