The Immokalee Foundation announced today that it has been awarded a two-year grant from the New York Life Foundation to support its afterschool program “Career Pathways: Empowering Students to Succeed,” a career-oriented initiative that works with middle school students and their parents to learn about in-demand careers in Southwest Florida. The New York Life Foundation’s Aim High grant funding program will help The Immokalee Foundation expand both the number of middle school students served and the services provided through Career Pathways.
“This funding will allow us to make an even greater impact by adding to our strong pool of professors, teachers and tutors and by enhancing and increasing program experiences,” said Noemi Y. Perez, president and CEO of The Immokalee Foundation. “Our goal is to help as many Immokalee middle schoolers as possible prepare for and succeed in high school and beyond.”
The program provides an actionable career path for students to follow throughout high school and post-secondary education to ensure a successful transition into the workforce by assisting middle school students to explore professional career opportunities in four Career Pathways with high growth rates in the region: Health Care, Education & Human Services, Engineering & Construction Management, and Business Management & Entrepreneurship. These pathways include in-demand jobs with average annual salaries ranging from $40,000 to $99,000, the majority of which can be attained with professional certifications and credentials.
“Career Pathways maps out the in-school, afterschool, summer training and education activities needed to allow students to meet their career goals,” said Perez. “Taking this step helps to prepare them to transition to ninth grade and high school education. Having a career path also motivates them to excel in school, because they have set career goals based on their individual aptitudes and interests.”
Career Pathways serves a total of 320 students throughout the year, with 100 of those students at the middle school level. More than one-third of Immokalee Middle School eighth graders have been identified as at-risk of not graduating from high school based on assessment scores, while students who participate in The Immokalee Foundation’s programs have a 100 percent high school graduation rate.
The grant is one of 26 new grants this year from the New York Life Foundation’s “Aim High” program, a partnership with the Afterschool Alliance. This year’s new grants total $1.35 million and went to youth development organizations in 16 states and the District of Columbia (Alabama, Arizona, California (6), Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida (3), Georgia (2), Idaho, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York (2), Ohio (2), Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin). The organizations were selected from a total of 542 applicants.
In addition to these new grants, 16 programs received continuing grants first announced in 2019. Together, these programs support underserved youth in 24 states and the District of Columbia. The grants mark the fourth year of awards made under The New York Life Foundation’s Aim High education initiative, and this year’s grants bring the total awarded under the program to $4.8 million.
“Students and families are facing immense hardships as a result of COVID-19, and they need additional academic and social emotional support now more than ever,” said Marlyn Torres, senior program officer, New York Life Foundation. “Middle school students benefit greatly from the support and engaging opportunities provided by afterschool and summer programs, so it’s critical that these programs have the funding and flexibility to continue this important work.”
Research has shown that for under-resourced students, additional learning time in the form of high-quality afterschool, expanded day and summer programs leads to greater academic achievement, better school attendance and higher engagement. Further, a successful transition from eighth to ninth grade – middle school to high school in most cases – is particularly critical to student success.
“We’re proud to partner with the New York Life Foundation in this effort,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “Afterschool providers across the nation have been true heroes during the pandemic. Many have continued to provide full services to children of essential workers, others are conducting programming online, and many are delivering food to low-income families in their communities and connecting them to health and social service providers. I’ve never been prouder of the afterschool movement, so the foundation’s continued support at this time of great peril is especially gratifying.”
Aim High is part of the New York Life Foundation’s ongoing investment in OST programs to help underserved eighth graders reach the ninth grade on time and prepared for high school. Afterschool, summer and expanded learning programs nationwide are selected for grants through a review process run in collaboration with the Afterschool Alliance. Winners were selected based on the strength of their support for youth in transition to ninth grade – specifically around such indicators of success as on-time promotion; school attendance rates; improved behavior, grades and test scores; and/or the development of social and emotional skills – by a panel of reviewers that included representatives from the New York Life Foundation, the Afterschool Alliance, and previous award winners. Since 2013, the New York Life Foundation has invested more than $50 million in national middle school OST efforts.
New data from the Afterschool Alliance that shows 75 percent of afterschool programs are at risk of closing permanently or laying off staff due to funding losses during the pandemic. As a result, the foundation is allowing these and all other Aim High grantees the flexibility to use their funding as needed to support their overall work.
This year’s grant applicants were asked to submit plans for supporting youth in expanded or enhanced ways to help them successfully transition to high school. As in years past, applicants seeking one-year, $15,000 grants had a special focus: supporting opioid misuse prevention. Across the country, in communities struggling with the misuse of opioids and other substances, afterschool and summer learning programs are playing a critical role by fostering protective factors, increasing resilience among young people, supporting positive youth development, and reducing risk factors among children and youth. Grants will help programs build protective and preventive factors, reduce risk factors for youth and provide other supports for young people and families impacted by substance misuse and the opioid epidemic.