Kathy Lugo | January 23, 2024 | Aspen Postsecondary Success for Parents, Press Releases

Innovative partnerships center student parent expertise to advance postsecondary success at six organizations and institutions across the nation.

Washington, DC – Today, Ascend at the Aspen Institute is excited to announce our 2023-24 Parent-Powered Solutions Fund Partners, six organizations and institutions from across the country who are innovatively advancing postsecondary success for student parents. The Parent-Powered Solutions Fund is the first parent-led fund of its kind and an innovative example of participatory grantmaking – designed, led, and evaluated by Ascend Parent Advisors and funded by Imaginable Futures.

Nationally, one in five college students is a parent, and we know that when student parents succeed, their children and communities succeed as well. Ascend will provide our 2023-24 Parent-Powered Solutions Fund Partners with more than a quarter of a million dollars in funding, as well as expert technical assistance. Below, our partners and Ascend Parent Advisors share in their own words their enthusiasm for the innovative solutions that will result from the fund:

Hudson County Community College (Jersey City, New Jersey) and the Jersey City Housing Authority will collaborate to create a comprehensive support system for student parents that leads to postsecondary credential attainment, pathways to a degree, and gainful employment.

“Student parents inspire us every day with their determination and resolve in navigating unique and complex challenges. Our Hudson County Community College family is committed to using data and best practices to address the holistic needs of our students. We are enormously grateful to the Parent-Powered Solutions Fund for supporting college-wide initiatives to empower HCCC student parents with transformational opportunities and outcomes.”

Lori Margolin, Associate Vice President, Continuing Education & Workforce Development

Isis Patterson, Ascend Parent Advisor and Harvard Graduate School of Design student: “I love the collaboration between the Jersey City Housing Authority and Hudson County Community College, which can lead to potential policy changes within the housing authority that further support student parents.”

Jardin de los Niños (Las Cruces, New Mexico) will create the Flourishing Families Parent Mentoring Program (FFPMP) to provide student parents the opportunity to gain skills that will support them both personally and professionally through a strong mentorship experience.

“It is an honor to be selected to participate in Ascend at the Aspen Institute’s Parent-Powered Solutions Fund. Jardin de los Niños strives to empower families, ignite hope, and to provide opportunities for children and families who are experiencing homelessness to flourish. This partnership will support Jardin in impacting families through a holistic, strengths-based, and trauma-informed approach, while focusing on education, trauma and generational poverty.”

Dr. Michelle Adames, Chief Executive Officer

Maria Isabel Ramos Martinez, Ascend Parent Advisor and University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley Clinical Psychology Ph.D. candidate: “Now living in a border town as a student parent in Texas where the majority is low-income, I love that this organization has been able to make it happen to provide childcare, education, community resources, early childhood education, therapeutic intervention, and comprehensive services to homeless and near homeless children, from the ages of six weeks to 10 years, and their families.”

Leeward Hui ʻOhana at Leeward Community College (Pearl City, Hawaii) will expand their initiative to have community college professors create class assignments that student parents can complete with their children in their own communities.

“We are thrilled to partner with Ascend and the Parent-Powered Solutions Fund to expand our offerings of family intergenerational assignments across many academic disciplines. These opportunities will allow our parenting students to complete homework while also spending quality time with their children. This partnership also provides us with funds to establish a Parenting Student Advisory Board to amplify the voices of parenting students at Leeward Community College.”

Ashley Biddle, Assistant Professor (CC) of Psychology and member of Leeward Hui ʻOhana

Kimberly Salazar, Ascend Parent Advisor and Skills and Training in Action Research (STAR) Fellow at Urban Institute: “When do we ever see or hear Pacific Islanders in these spaces? If we’re addressing geographical diversity: this is it!” In addition to expanding family intergenerational assignments, “their budget also shows they give direct funding to student parents.”

Long Beach City College (Long Beach, California) will hire two student parent advisors to strengthen new and existing services to better support student parents and increase their sense of community at the institution.

“We are excited to enhance our support for parenting students. Being selected allows us to utilize resources to expand childcare options, elevate multimedia marketing campaigns, and create a centralized resource space. We are committed to ensuring access for our parenting students and their families at Long Beach City College.”

Dr. Mike Muñoz, Superintendent-President and CEO

Jessica Pelton, Ascend Parent Advisor and University of Michigan’s Michigan Medicine Clinical Research Assistant: “I am blown away by this proposal. This program looks incredible and is a program other universities could strive to model after. Wanting to hire two student parent advisors, this allows them to be hands-on in the work and help guide policymakers in creating resources and policies that actually work for student parents. It’s hard to create effective programs and policies without student parent voices in the mix.”

Operation Restoration (New Orleans, Louisiana) will strengthen its education department which provides postsecondary education and workforce development pathways for women and girls impacted by incarceration.

“At Operation Restoration, we are excited to be a recipient of a grant from Ascend at the Aspen Institute’s Parent-Powered Solutions Fund. Recognition by this student-parent fund of our work to provide education pathways for our clients validates and moves forward the conversation about education as a preventative measure to recidivism. Some 80% of our clients – who are justice-impacted women and girls – are also mothers. We know that 95% of formerly incarcerated women stay out of prison when they seek an education. That’s why we provide wrap-around services from childcare and transportation to skills training in order to help them succeed with their education goals.”

Syrita Steib, Founder, President, and CEO

Nicole Alkire Grady, Ascend Parent Advisor and Sitting Bull College student: “I love that they give assistance and resources to girls and women impacted by incarceration.”

Urban Institute (National/Washington, DC) will support student parent leaders in developing the structure of the National Skills and Training in Action Research (N STAR) Student Parent Leadership Network.

“This project is an exciting opportunity to share power and leverage the expertise of student parents to support the next generation of field leaders. With the Parent-Powered Solutions Fund, we will build on the strong foundation of the Urban Institute and the co-organizational Student-Parent Action through Research Knowledge (SPARK) Collaborative to ensure lived-experience parenting student experts have the necessary social capital and informational resources they need to advance into careers, especially roles that advocate for and improve educational and workforce outcomes for parents and their families.”

Theresa Anderson, Principal Research Associate

Christian Ortiz, Ascend Parent Advisor and Contact Representative at the United States Social Security Administration: “The Urban Institute is planning to expand their student parents in doing research and work in the groundwork process which is commendable. Also, I like the aspect of hiring from within.”

Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute: “As the son of a student parent, I am excited that the Parent-Powered Solutions Fund presents a significant opportunity to build and transform postsecondary policies, systems, and practices by honoring lived expertise. I am inspired by Ascend Parent Advisors’ passion in leading this initiative – a true example of the generational leadership the Aspen Institute works to foster.”

Anne Mosle, Vice President at the Aspen Institute and Founder and Executive Director of Ascend: “Investing in student parent success is transformative, a game-changer for families, communities, and our country. Research shows that parents who complete college degrees double their lifetime income, and a $3k increase in a parent’s income leads to a 17% increase in their children’s future income. We are thrilled to see how our diverse 2023-24 Parent-Powered Solutions Fund Partners will leverage this partnership to increase intergenerational family prosperity and well-being in their communities.”

Marjorie Sims, Managing Director of Ascend: “At Ascend, we know that engaging student parents’ expertise is critical to co-creating solutions that advance postsecondary completion and build intergenerational family prosperity. The Parent-Powered Solutions Fund is the first parent-led fund of its kind and a powerful example of participatory grantmaking. We are so grateful to our Ascend Parent Advisors for leading this detailed, demanding, and comprehensive process. We could not have done it without the commitment of our Parent Advisors and our funder, Imaginable Futures, to honor lived experience and center equity to create lasting change.”

Vinice Davis, Venture Partner at Imaginable Futures: “The range of solutions we see in this inspiring group is a testament to the vibrant, diverse experiences of student parents at institutions across the country. These solutions are beacons of light for a postsecondary education system that is in the midst of navigating a new way forward. I’m excited to continue learning from the Parent Advisors and the Fund partners on what best supports student parent success.”

Since 2018, Ascend’s Postsecondary Success for Parents (PSP) initiative has been a key driver in building a student parent movement – an expansive, nationally-coordinated effort to advance the development of innovative solutions that provide greater postsecondary access, affordability, and success for parents. Ascend focuses on the more than four million student parents enrolled in postsecondary pathways – a group that should inform and strengthen higher education’s equity agenda. The Parent-Powered Solutions Fund is central to this effort.

Learn more about the 2023-24 Parent-Powered Solutions Fund.


Ascend at the Aspen Institute is a catalyst and convener for diverse leaders working across systems and sectors to build intergenerational family prosperity and well-being by intentionally focusing on children and the adults in their lives together. We believe in the power of co-creation. We are a community of leaders — well-connected, well-prepared, and well-positioned — building political will that transforms hearts, minds, policies, and practices.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization whose purpose is to ignite human potential to build understanding and create new possibilities for a better world. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve society’s greatest challenges. It is headquartered in Washington, DC and has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, as well as an international network of partners. For more information, visit


Contact: Kathy Lugo, Communications Officer
Ascend at the Aspen Institute

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