Youth-Serving Agencies Benefit from Lumina Grants

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Portions of the $3.4 million in first-quarter grants announced this week by the Lumina Foundation for Education will trickle down to youth-serving agencies on the frontlines of the battle to get more youths prepared for college and careers.

An understanding of just how that money works its way down from a large foundation that doesn’t fund direct service providers to those that do can be beneficial for anyone in the business of college access.

One example from the latest round of grants is the Indianapolis Algebra Project, a program that doubles as a summer youth employment and remedial math program for inner city youths at the K-12 level.

The program works by employing about three dozen youths who are accomplished math students to tutor between 1,400 and 1,600 other youths who need help in math in order to better their chances at succeeding in algebra.

This is easily in line with the Lumina Foundations Goal 2025 – an initiative meant to increase dramatically the proportion of Americans who have postsecondary degrees and credentials with value in the labor market – because algebra is a subject whose mastery has been shown to predict success at the postsecondary level.

“Our ultimate goal is to destroy this myth that our inner city kids can’t do math,” said Terry Ogle, a former public school administrator who co-directs the Indianapolis Algebra Project with his wife, former middle school math teacher Marjory Ogle.

The math project’s tutoring takes place at 20 or so sites throughout Indianapolis, including churches, community centers and youth-serving agencies such as the Boys & Girls Club.

Although the Indianapolis Algebra Project is located in the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation’s backyard, the agency isn’t getting money directly from the Lumina Foundation, but rather through the Central Indiana Community Foundation, one of the Lumina Foundation’s first-quarter grantees.

The Central Indiana Community Foundation got $260,100 from Lumina to support its Summer Youth Program partnership, a collaborative funding initiative that makes grants to summer youth programs in Indianapolis.

Roderick Wheeler, grants officer for the Central Indiana Community Foundation, said one of the issues being tackled by the Summer Youth Program is “summer loss” – the academic losses youths have during summer vacation.

 “The summer loss taking place is contributing to the achievement gap,” Wheeler said. “How can we use summer learning to catch up, excel and go beyond?”

In line with the work of eradicating summer loss, Wheeler said a portion of the Lumina money it received will support the Indianapolis Algebra Project in the summer of 2011. He said his foundation is already supporting the algebra project this summer through a continuation of grants that began a few years back. Last summer the Algebra Project got $48,000 from the Central Indiana Community Foundation, according to a grant report.

The Indianapolis Algebra Project is achieving results. Math skills in various areas improved from 30 to 50 percent based on scores, the grant report shows.

One takeaway point is that if you run a direct service program that is in line with Lumina’s Goal 2025, one way to keep the bills paid is to build and maintain relationships with grant officers such as Wheeler who work at organizations that are eligible to compete for grants from the Lumina Foundation, which in 2007 gave out $50.4 million in grants to support education access and success.

The Indianapolis Algebra Project is one of several youth-serving agencies benefiting indirectly from the Lumina Foundation’s grants.

Another example from Lumina’s first-quarter grants is the Washington, D.C.-based National Human Services Assembly, an association of nonprofits in the fields of health, human and community development, and human services.

The National Human Services Assembly received $5,000 from Lumina to familiarize youth-serving agencies with KnowHow2Go – a website that offers grade specific advice on how to prepare for college – and strategies on how to use the site.

Though $5,000 is a small amount and was used to put on a half-day conference, the information that youth-serving agencies acquired could prove beneficial in other ways. For as long as the United States rates of college degree attainment tend to lag behind those of other nations, familiarity with initiatives such as KnowHow2Go is important for anyone in the business of college access.

Cases-in-point: 1) A growing number of states are forming KnowHow2Go networks, and 2) another one of Lumina’s first-quarter grant recipients was Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., which got $75,000 to help KnowHow2GO state networks develop and implement policy strategies that support savings account vehicles for low- and moderate-income youths and their families.

For a full list of Lumina’s first-quarter grants, visit http://www.luminafoundation.org/newsroom/news_releases/2010-04-14.html

Jamaal Abdul-Alim covers College & Careers through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He can be reached at Jamaal@youthtoday.org