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Kresge Foundation selects PCC to participate in its national BOOST initiative

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Early Child Development staff with kids.

The Kresge Foundation has awarded a $495,000 grant to Portland Community College and Albina Head Start to connect low-income residents and students to human services and educational pathways. This is one of six partnerships nationwide between community colleges and human services nonprofits that have been selected to participate in Kresge’s Boosting Opportunities for Social and Economic Mobility for Families (BOOST) initiative.

Through BOOST, Kresge supports students so that they successfully juggle work, family and school. In addition, people served by human services nonprofits will be connected to educational opportunities leading to careers that enable them to support their families.

“A high-quality college education can help students with low incomes succeed not only today, but throughout their lives,” said Bill Moses, Kresge Education Program managing director. “But at colleges all around the country, students often juggle work, family and school. Nearly one in five college students are parents, and that rate is even higher at community colleges. We believe that if more students receive the critical support that human services nonprofits provide, more students will stay in college and graduate.”

The funds will expand existing career-focused PCC education programs and support an additional 200 Early Head Start and Head Start parents. As part of this effort, staff will identify and reform organizational barriers, and develop better approaches to serve low-income communities of color.

“We will look at how we can use student-centered design to improve the way we communicate and connect with student parents,” said Kate Kinder, PCC’s director of Career Pathways & Skills. “We’ll look at how we collaborate and align systems more effectively with partners, and what policies can improve college access, completion, and career opportunities for student parents. Much of this will tie into the statewide Pathways to Opportunity work.”

In 2018 the Oregon State Legislature passed HB4043, which called on community colleges to assess students’ financial constraints and determine how to increase access to federal, state and local benefits by low-income students. The Pathways to Opportunity initiative was thus launched, to close opportunity gaps and increase economic mobility across the state. PCC serves as the lead on the project, which includes a coalition of all 17 Oregon community colleges, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, Oregon Community College Association, community-based organizations, and state partners like Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS).

In addition to grant funding, BOOST grantees and partners nationwide will convene annually, participate in a cross-site evaluation, and receive technical assistance from Jobs for the Future, a national nonprofit organization that will serve as the foundation’s management and learning partner.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, is the Director of Public Relations at Portland Community College. A graduate of Portland State University, James has worked as a section editor for the Newberg Graphic... more »