Contact: Alexis Williams
Ascend at the Aspen Institute
Aspen Institute Announces First-Ever Parent Powered Solutions Fund Awardees
Parent Leaders Select Six Organizations Championing College Success for
Undergraduate Students Raising Children
Washington, DC – Today, Ascend at the Aspen Institute announced the recipients of the Aspen Parent Powered Solutions Fund – the first student parent-led fund dedicated to advancing the work of organizations and initiatives that support student parents’ postsecondary success. The inaugural awardees are pursuing a host of issues – from creating student parent advisory councils and offering mental health counseling supports to providing emergency financial resources and compensating parents for their expertise. They will each receive $25,000 over the next year to develop programs that support student parents in completing postsecondary programs. The Ascend PSP Parent Advisors, whose first-hand experience informs Ascend’s Postsecondary Success for Parents (PSP) Initiative, selected these innovative solutions.
“We are planting our seeds on a new horizon, and we are excited to see what grows from it,” said Jesus Benitez, Parent Advisor and recent graduate of the City University of New York. “It’s amazing to read about projects that acknowledge ideas like a family resource center as a necessity and learning that schools want to duplicate the student parent advisors, just like Ascend, to improve their services to better support student parents. I’m eager to see what comes from the work we are doing and what the future has in store for student parents and their families.”
“As the child of a student parent, the stories I’ve heard from the Ascend Parent Advisors resonate deeply with me,” said Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute. “The day-to-day challenges of college-goers of every age have only been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Parent Powered Solutions Fund both honors the sacrifices student parents make and supports the solutions to the distinct challenges they face.”
The Aspen Parent Powered Solutions Fund awardees are:
- BeyondHome (CO) will use the fund to provide members of its Women with a Cause Scholar Program and student parents in its Self-Sufficiency Program with mental health and financial counseling, life skills, parent coaching, youth and children programming, and direct financial assistance.
- Briya Public Charter School’s (Briya) (DC) funding will support parents in its workforce programs to earn credentials as a Child Development Associate or a Medical Assistant. After completing their workforce credential, the student parent will enter credit bearing classes at one of Briya’s partner schools, the University of the District of Columbia or Trinity University. Briya will also provide high quality infant and toddler education to the student parents.
- Community College of Aurora (CCA) (CO) will create an advisory council comprised of students who are parents to lead conversations and policymaking opportunities on campus. The student parents will be paid to gather information and report on parent and family needs, barriers specific to CCA student parents, and solutions to those barriers.
- Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC) (TN) will hire eight student parents as advisors to participate in community meetings relevant to their lived experiences, attend monthly staff agenda meetings to provide feedback on proposed programming, plan trainings, lead quarterly student parent focus groups to assess the needs present in the community, discuss strategies to address these needs, and lead weekly support groups.
- Project Self-Sufficiency (PSS) (CA) will use the fund for its Client Services Program for single-parent college students to offer flexible financial support and long-term case management until six months after graduation. Financial support will include emergency rental assistance, textbook assistance, child care assistance, auto repair and other aid as needed. PSS also offers dental reimbursement, professional development opportunities, holiday assistance, and mental health counseling.
- Raise the Barr (RTB) (CA/MN) will invest in student parents as expert consultants and incorporate them into all aspects of planning, programming, and decision making. RTB will add two student parents to its advisory board and compensate them for their time. Student parents will also serve on RTB’s scholarship and emergency grant review committees to help create student-centered applications and review submissions.
“We are honored to have been chosen by the [Fund], as it validates and acknowledges our intent to keep student parents at the center of who we are and what we do,” said Lori Barr, co-founder of Raise the Barr. “To have the trust of Ascend’s Parent Advisors is one of the highest votes of confidence we have received to date! We look forward to furthering our efforts, together, so student parents everywhere have the opportunity, resources, and support they need to thrive!”
The PSP Initiative, a partnership between Ascend, Imaginable Futures, and the ECMC Foundation that raises awareness about and shares strategies to better support student parents, centers the Parent Advisors to ensure their voices and expertise inform the policy and practice recommendations put forth. Shifting decision-making power to student parents is more important now, during a global pandemic, than ever. Building stronger pathways to completion and providing resources that address the unique needs of student parents is of the utmost importance this school year given the COVID-19 pandemic. Student parents with school-age children are taking on virtual learning together, while those with even younger children require safe, quality, affordable child care. Access to Wi-Fi is imperative to complete classes, while job and food security remain constant concerns. The grantees will set a precedent for two-generation innovations that nonprofits, postsecondary institutions, and workforce development programs can model.
Vinice Davis, venture partner at Imaginable Futures: “We are overjoyed with the response to the Parent Powered Solutions Fund from both the Parent Advisors and the applicants. We saw a variety of solutions from applicants that truly put student parents first. The Parent Advisors made poignant observations to narrow down and identify the best programs for their community. We are optimistic that the future of the postsecondary ecosystem will be more family friendly thanks to their choices.”
Anne Mosle, vice president at the Aspen Institute and executive director of Ascend: “Solutions for student parents must include their perspectives, insights, and lived experience. The Parent Powered Solutions Fund proves what is possible when parent voice is at the center. It’s been a pleasure to watch this cohort take the reins and lead this process. Ascend is confident that the recipients of the Fund will transform the postsecondary field.”
Ascend at the Aspen Institute is the national hub for breakthrough ideas and collaborations that move children and their parents toward educational success, economic security, and health and well-being. We embrace a commitment to racial equity and a gender lens. For more information, visit https://dev-ascend-at-the-aspen-institute.pantheonsite.io
The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org
Imaginable Futures (IF) is a global philanthropic investment firm that believes learning has the power to unlock human potential and aspires to provide every learner with the opportunity and the tools they need to imagine, and to realize, a brighter future. By taking a systems approach to solving complex education challenges, IF works across public, private and social sectors to bring to life transformational ideas in local, national and global contexts for learners of all ages. With a deep commitment to on-the-ground partnership and co-creation with those we serve, Imaginable Futures is empowering learners, families and communities to be the changemakers of the future. Established in 2020 and managed by a global team, Imaginable Futures has invested $200 million in more than 100 partners across Africa, Latin America and the United States, as well as in India with sister organization, Omidyar Network India. Imaginable Futures is a venture of The Omidyar Group and is founded and funded by Pierre and Pam Omidyar. Follow us at @imaginablefut and learn more at www.imaginablefutures.com.
ECMC Foundation is a Los Angeles-based, nationally focused foundation whose mission is to inspire and to facilitate improvements that affect educational outcomes—especially among underserved populations—through evidence-based innovation. It is one of several affiliates under the ECMC Group (www.ecmcgroup.org) enterprise based in Minneapolis. ECMC Foundation makes investments in two focus areas: College Success and Career Readiness; and uses a spectrum of funding structures, including strategic grantmaking and program-related investments, to invest in both nonprofit and for-profit ventures. Working with grantees, partners and peers, ECMC Foundation’s vision is for all learners to unlock their fullest potential. For more information, visit www.ecmcfoundation.org.
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Photo of Generation Hope Scholar and daughter on the playground. Generation Hope is a nonprofit based in Washington, DC, providing wraparound, two-generation support to young parents in college and their pre-kindergarten little ones, and promoting student parents’ college completion through national advocacy and direct technical assistance to colleges and universities.