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United Way of Southern Cameron County Gets Grant to Help Low-Income Youth Earn College Credential

This is a great story released yesterday by United Way of Southern Cameron County, which was awarded a grant to help more low-income young adults earn college credentials. It's a great example of how United Way brings people together to get things done.


Local News Story & Video

Read the Announcement:

 For Release July 12, 2011

For more information:
Traci Wickett, President & CEO
United Way of Southern Cameron County 
956-548-6880 traci.wickett@unitedwayrgv.org


United Way of Southern Cameron County Awarded Grant for Partnership to Help More Low-Income Young Adults Earn College Credentials

Brownsville, Texas – After seven months of intense planning and partnership building, United Way of Southern Cameron County has been awarded a $1,299,909 grant to guide the continuing participation of the Brownsville postsecondary partnership in a three-year demonstration funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Partners for Postsecondary Success initiative is part of the Gates Foundation’s postsecondary strategy to double the number of young adults (aged 16-26) who earn a postsecondary credential with labor market value by 2025.

Brownsville’s Partners for Postsecondary Success leadership team includes leaders from the Brownsville Independent School District, the University of Texas at Brownsville, Workforce Solutions Cameron, United Brownsville, the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, Project VIDA, the Brownsville Economic Development Council, local employers and business owners, and United Way of Southern Cameron County.

MDC, a Chapel Hill-based nonprofit dedicated to improving educational and economic opportunities in communities across the nation, received a grant from the Gates Foundation to lead the initiative and will continue to provide coaching and technical support to the participating partnerships during the implementation phase of the project. Partners for Postsecondary Success is expected to help communities improve the performance of their postsecondary institutions, deepen collaboration between education and industry to forge student pathways to good jobs, and align and leverage resources to sustain the partnership effort beyond the demonstration period.

“All students have a better chance at success in both college and careers when they have supportive communities behind them,” said Daniel Pitasky, special assistant to the director of postsecondary education with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The foundation is investing in community partnerships in Raleigh, Brownsville, and Amarillo because of their demonstrated commitment to improve postsecondary completion rates and to using data to advise both policy and practice toward this end. We are also pleased that MDC will help identify best practices in these cities that can be broadly adopted and disseminated throughout the country.”

Three community partnerships in Raleigh, N.C., and Brownsville and Amarillo, Tex., were awarded implementation grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A fourth partnership from Charlotte, N.C., will submit its proposal for continuing participation in the project in the early fall of this year. Lead organizations in each city coordinated the work of the partnership through the planning phase of the initiative and will continue to lead each partnership through the implementation phase.

“Partners for Postsecondary Success fits perfectly with United Way of Southern Cameron County’s mission to advance the common good by creating opportunities for a better life for all,” said Traci Wickett, United Way president and CEO. “We’re very grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for providing the resources to accelerate the Partnership’s work to help local young people get the postsecondary training they need to become financially stable adults.”

“The Rio Grande Valley is projected to continue to be one of the fastest growing regions in the State of Texas for the next two decades. But we must do more than grow to prosper as a region; we must grow smart. We are very pleased that the Gates Foundation has played such a pivotal role in bringing all of the community stakeholders to the table to provide a seamless strategy that advances students from college preparation to employment. This investment will help to bring about the large-scale change needed to create a college-going culture and transform a region,” remarked Dr. Juliet V. Garcia, president of UTB.

Brownsville’s Partners for Postsecondary Success implementation plan focuses on bridging the gaps in students’ pathways from the early years of high school through postsecondary to employment with labor market value. “Raising the community’s level of focus and engagement on human capital development is central to the plan,” said Irv Downing, vice president for economic development and community services at University of Texas at Brownsville. Partners for Postsecondary Success will connect employers, educators, and community leaders around a common agenda to increase the number of young people with postsecondary credentials.

“Brownsville ISD has strongly supported this postsecondary initiative from the very beginning,” said Dr. Carl A. Montoya, interim superintendent. “Partnering with other local organizations to improve educational and quality of life opportunities for our young people is a winning proposition for everyone in our community. We sincerely thank the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for investing in Brownsville’s future.”

“This is not about trying to get everyone a four-year degree but rather to acknowledge that a high school diploma is no longer sufficient to earn access to jobs in many of the fastest growing occupations,” said Bonnie Gordon, MDC senior program director and project director of Partners for Postsecondary Success. “These partnerships will serve as credible, enduring community-wide sources of information, inspiration, and action to help students earn an array of postsecondary credentials required for the workforce of the future.”

Improving educational attainment among low-income young adults and equipping a new generation to be competitive in an increasingly global marketplace is essential to strengthening local and regional economies. A report by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University estimates that 63 percent of all job openings over the next seven years will require postsecondary education or training.

Brownsville’s unemployment rate for May was 11.8 percent, and over 37 percent of the population lives in poverty. The latest Census indicates that only 52 percent of adults over the age of 25 have completed high school.

“Too often those living in poverty must overcome significant obstacles to a postsecondary education that is the gateway to living-wage employment.” said David Dodson, president of MDC. “To build a well-trained and highly-educated workforce for a new generation of jobs, communities must connect more low-income young adults to the resources necessary for academic success beyond high school.”

As part of the implementation phase of the project, Brownsville’s community partnership will also have the opportunity to nominate a member to participate in the MDC Fellows program, a year-long fellowship for mid-career professionals that will provide additional learning and professional development opportunities through MDC.


United Way of Southern Cameron County

For 55 years, United Way of Southern Cameron County has worked to advance the common good by focusing on the building blocks of a good life—education, income, and health.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.


MDC is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Chapel Hill, N.C., that has been publishing research and developing programs focused on expanding opportunity, reducing poverty, and addressing structural inequity for more than 40 years. MDC’s focus is on: defining gaps and mobilizing leaders to create a will for change; demonstrating sustainable solutions and developing them into effective models; and then incubating them so they can be replicated at scale for maximum impact. For more information, go to www.mdcinc.org.