25 winners from across the country will receive up to $500,000 to design and launch career connected learning models primarily serving underserved student populations.
In an effort to spark innovation in education and connect young learners to meaningful economic opportunities, the Catalyze Challenge announced 25 new grant winners today, each to receive up to $500,000 in funds. Winners were selected from a pool of roughly 550 total applicants, based on the strength of their solutions to better connect education and career in their communities, and their commitment to driving equity through models rooted in career-connected learning. Grantees represent a range of nonprofits, community organizations, entrepreneurs, employers, and cross-sector partnerships.
The Catalyze Challenge is a joint venture among American Student Assistance® (ASA), Arnold Ventures, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, Charter School Growth Fund, the Joyce Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation, to date totaling nearly $10 million in funding to 40 innovative solutions across 24 states. The Challenge aims to fund, learn from, and share bold ideas that rethink the connections among K-12, post-secondary education, and career for students in grades 6-14.
Last year, Round 1 of the Catalyze Challenge awarded over $4 million to 15 inspiring solutions reaching learners across more than 15 states. The 2022 Catalyze Challenge grantees will join these inaugural winners – forming a community of innovators and leaders who are transforming education in their communities spanning 18 states. This year’s winners have a specific focus on career identity and development, and post-high school pathways.
“There’s never been a greater need for bold ideas that can help students find their path to a fulfilling career and life,” said Romy Drucker, Education Program Director at the Walton Family Foundation. “We’re excited to partner with so many forward-thinkers in philanthropy to support this project and grateful that the number of entrepreneurs and educators bringing their energy and ideas to the Catalyze Challenge has nearly doubled in the second round.”
Nationwide, momentum is building around the power of career-connected learning to ensure young people have the resources, skills, and support needed to thrive. Research shows that students that are exposed to career-connected learning models are more likely to succeed in the workforce, leading to higher rates of employment and greater lifetime earnings. Through a wide variety of local partnerships, Catalyze Challenge 2022 winners are connecting students in their communities with the in-demand skills employers are increasingly looking for, helping learners develop their career identity in a variety of pathways that may or may not require a college degree.
Winners were selected with an intentional focus on reaching students from historically under-represented backgrounds, including students of color, those living in low-income and rural communities, and students who are immigrants. Findings from the inaugural, bi-annual Advancing Career-Connected Insights report indicates that 88% of the 2022 winners aim to serve low-income learners and/or BIPOC students. Selected solution themes include:
- Community-centric career development: Through local employer partnerships and culturally responsive programming, solutions are equipping students with skills necessary to identify and solve challenges in their communities.
- Unlocking equity through innovation: By working across industries to anticipate the needs of the future, grantees are building more equitable access to in-demand skills for historically underrepresented learners.
- Disrupting beliefs around blue collar careers: Challenge winners are connecting learners to high-income employment opportunities in traditionally blue collar fields such as construction – while training students with in-demand skills such as data analytics, project management, and engineering.
“It’s vital that today's students have the opportunity to link learning to real-world career experiences,” said Julie Lammers, Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Corporate Social Responsibility at American Student Assistance. “We’re thrilled to support the Catalyze Challenge, and the amazing grantees who understand the importance of helping young people develop skills, build social capital, and hone their career interests. We are excited to see these programs help students succeed and thrive.”
The complete list of winning organizations (bolded) and their solutions:
AbreTech (Nationwide, Massachusetts) AbreTech is building a new path to upward mobility for English language learners by developing emerging bilingual talent for in-demand careers in the tech industry. Their cross-sector model includes paid bilingual internships, employer-valued certifications, and access to social capital.
BAYADA Home Health Care/Scaling Healthcare Careers for Young Adults (New Jersey, Hawaii, Pennsylvania) National nonprofit BAYADA’s solution connects young people with careers in nursing and applied behavior analysis while meeting the nation’s urgent healthcare needs. BAYADA is the first employer to use apprenticeships for home healthcare using an earned revenue model.
The BroadStreet Institute/The Community Data Project (Multiple Locations) The BroadStreet Institute's Community Data Project supports women of color advancing in data and leadership by addressing the gender disparities in a remote, hands-on internship work experience that removes barriers to entry by providing one-on-one support and creating customized learning paths.
Builders and Backers/Credentials for Young Entrepreneurs (Nationwide) Builders and Backers, in partnership with the Education Design Lab, aims to help underrepresented entrepreneurs and learners gain the skills and real-world experience they need to pursue their ideas, whether that be launching a business or exploring a pathway in a high-growth career.
Code the Spectrum/Spectrum IT Career Pathways (California) Spectrum Career Pathways aims to build IT career-oriented technical training and professional development programs for grade 13-14 students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), connecting them with job opportunities such as website development and bridging the digital divide in employment for people with ASD.
Cowden St. Collaborative DBA Segue Academy/Legacy High School for Education (Rhode Island) The Segue Institute for Learning/Legacy High School for Education helps BIPOC students pursue professions in education, by creating learning environments that center the importance of eradicating inequities and having educators reflect the communities they serve.
Ella Baker Institute/Young People's Leadership Cooperative (New York) Intersecting the key skills and mindsets of community organizers and entrepreneurs, the Young People’s Leadership Cooperative (YPLC) will position young people to identify challenges in their communities and design then implement enterprising solutions that foster community well-being.
Global Grid for Learning/Certified School Passport Administrator (Georgia, Nevada, D.C) Global Grid for Learning has created a unique Certified School Passport Administrator (CSPA) internship program that aligns with IT certificate pathways (Grow with Google and Coursera IT) and provides students with virtual work-based learning experiences.
Hopeworks Dual Enrollment/Hopeworks Camden (New Jersey, Pennsylvania) Hopeworks works with employers to provide paid-training opportunities to learners in the IT field. High school seniors are dually enrolled in the Hopeworks program and a paid internship that can lead to stable, full-time employment and a livable wage.
Innovators for Purpose (iFp)/New Futures Lab (Massachusetts) Innovators for Purpose is a BIPOC-led youth design and innovation studio that is reimagining the STEM learning experience for grades 7-12 by integrating art, design, STEM and youth-voice within a social justice framework.
MindSpark Learning & STAR HARBOR Education Foundation/Gateway Global solution to scale GEOINT Tech to Colorado (Colorado) MindSpark Learning and its partners are working to bring Geospatial Intelligence/ GIS (GEOINT Tech) apprenticeships to Colorado via a high school STEM pathway for students from under-resourced and underrepresented communities in grades 6-14.
Moving Mountains, LLC/A Different World: Moving Mountains in VR (D.C) Moving Mountains provides accessible, tech-enabled, and culturally-relevant job shadowing for Black male college students to help participants access navigational capital in Corporate America.
National Indian Education Association/ “Building” Career Pathways for Native Students (Wisconsin) “Building” Career Pathways for Native Students is a middle through high school pipeline to college project to increase tribal workforce with earned construction degrees or certifications to address the housing and infrastructure needs for three Native American nations: Menominee, Stockbridge-Munsee and Ho-Chunk.
NuPaths/Central PA Cybersecurity Earn-and-Learn Ecosystem (Pennsylvania) NuPaths has partnered with the South Central Pennsylvania’s Workforce Development Boards to create a Cybersecurity Careers Ecosystem that addresses the lack of cybersecurity and IT career pathways for middle school, high school, and post-high school graduates.
OneGoal in New York/Many Paths, One Goal (New York) Many Paths, One Goal answers the call for high-quality post-secondary options for low-income high school students in New York City who want to pursue a path outside of a traditional two- or four-year college, by informing new advising tools and identifying non-degree pathways that will connect students to in-demand careers.
OneInFive/Building Youth Supporters Through Training (Indiana) OneInFive provides students with lived mental health experiences rich, practice-based training that leads toward peer specialist careers while they are in school – improving both student well-being and their career opportunities.
Oregon STEM/Spark Oregon (Oregon) Spark Oregon uses a pathfinding tool –YouScience– to develop a spectrum of culturally relevant career-connected learning resources that prepare rural Oregon students through hands-on learning projects with an earn-to-learn approach.
Radius Learning, Inc./VWBL (Charlotte, North Carolina) Radius charts workforce pathways to connect students with the jobs of tomorrow. Through partnerships with employers and education systems, Radius connects learners with training and employment opportunities.
Research Foundation of The City University of New York/Future Forward (New York) Future Forward is a holistic effort to build equitable access to sustainable careers by bringing together colleges, schools, community organizations, and industry partners to create a new model that integrates wraparound support for under-served youth, and provides better career-connected learning outcomes for students.
Reve Academy/Rever in Residence Experience (Minnesota) The Rever in Residence Experience introduces high school students, largely students of color and those from under-resourced backgrounds to entrepreneurship pathways with compensation and gives students mentorship from business professionals.
RevX (Nationwide) The DEEDS Framework (Discover, Examine, Engineer, Do, Share) brings real-world learning to life by asking young people to investigate a community challenge, then address it using career skills — transforming typical learning environments into training grounds for high earning careers and social justice impact.
SkillUp Coalition/LevelUp Dallas (Texas) The SkillUp Coalition/LevelUp Dallas supports students in grades 10-14 pursue a career path based on their preferences via an online platform where students are given curated career recommendations and connected with vetted training programs to pursue these options.
Stepmojo Education, LLC/Hybrid learning model (Nationwide) Stepmojo supports students to take "steps" to increase their "mojo" (special talents) by radically expanding their access to high-quality, live online courses, from best-in-class partners through one easy-to-use platform.
unCommon Construction/3-Tiered Apprenticeship (Louisiana) Through unCommon Construction's apprenticeship program, students apply to join a diverse team to earn hourly pay and school credit for building a house together, with the revenue from each project leading to a scholarship for further education and career opportunities.
Urban Strategies, Inc./Niche Innovators and Social Enterprise (Nationwide) Niche Innovators and Social Enterprise helps low-income youth living in assisted housing gain paid work experience in the housing industry, all while creating their own housing-related social enterprise to support long-term career stability.
American Student Assistance® (ASA)
American Student Assistance® (ASA) is a national nonprofit committed to helping students know themselves, know their options, and make informed decisions to achieve their education and career goals. ASA believes students should have access to career-connected learning, starting in middle school, so they can develop a plan for their future. ASA fulfills its mission by providing digital-first resources directly to students and support for educators and intermediaries. To learn more about ASA, visit www.asa.org/about-us.
Arnold Ventures is a philanthropy dedicated to tackling some of the most pressing problems in the United States - investing in sustainable change, building it from the ground up based on research, deep thinking, and a strong foundation of evidence. They drive public conversation, craft policy, and inspire action through education and advocacy.
The 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 Mark Suzman, under the direction of co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates and the board of trustees.
Charter School Growth Fund
Driven by a conviction that all children deserve great public schools in their communities, Charter School Growth Fund identifies the country’s best public charter schools, funds their expansion, and helps to increase their impact. They provide funding and support to a community of school leaders who seek to grow and serve more students, whether they are expanding from one to two schools, or building a network of many schools.
The Charles Koch Foundation
The Charles Koch Foundation partners with social entrepreneurs to remove the barriers that prevent people from reaching their potential. They do this by supporting research exploring the key issues of society and funding innovations in postsecondary education. This moves our society toward mutual benefit, where people succeed by helping others improve their lives.
The Joyce Foundation
The Joyce Foundation is a private, nonpartisan philanthropy that invests in public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region. They support policy research, development, and advocacy in six program areas: Culture, Democracy, Education & Economic Mobility, Environment, Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform, and Journalism.
The Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta.