On April 6, VPP hosted “All Stars Night,” a celebration of Venture Philanthropy Partners’ commitment to achieving better outcomes for youth in Greater Washington and our Ready for Work initiative in Prince George’s County, MD.
As I stood on stage facing our guests, I was humbled by the support many of you have shown for the young people of Greater Washington and especially in Prince George’s County.
Together, we honored leaders from government, business and philanthropy who have demonstrated leadership by supporting Ready for Work from its inception: The Honorable Rushern L. Baker, III, Milton Peterson and his family, and Kaiser Permanente.
Years ago when Rushern Baker took office as County Executive of Prince George’s County, he recognized that young people needed more support than the current system was equipped to provide. Executive Baker invited us into the County to build better nonprofits that could meet the needs of students. But the challenge of preparing young people was bigger than any one organization: It needed a systemic approach.
We are grateful for partners that stepped up to help like the Petersons and Kaiser Permanente, who provided resources and expertise to expand this effort into what became Ready for Work. Moved by a vision of a thriving Prince George’s County, Milt Peterson worked to ensure that National Harbor would contribute to the economic ecosystem for the people who call it home.
Kaiser Permanente has been a leading example of a dedicated employer partner: from organizing field trips, investing in the initiative and partnering with the county Summer Youth Enrichment Program to employ students and provide meaningful real-world work experiences.
Partners from every sector are necessary to build a strong network that creates the kind of systemic change that will improve our region. We thank these three leaders for leading the charge. Cross-sector collaborations are more important than ever if we are going to ensure every young person in Greater Washington has the opportunity to live to their full potential.
VPP isn’t the only organization thinking about our region’s future. There are many people looking to bring new business to Greater Washington, and we need to stay vigilant in our work if those gains will be shared by the entire community.
My remarks from the event captured how Ready for Work prepares students and Greater Washington for success and what VPP and our partners are focused on as we look ahead, and I’d like to share some of that with you:
All of us must work toward the goal of every student graduating from high school on-time and with the academic and technical skills that will make them career- and college-ready. These are the same skills employers need and are looking for in the young talent that fuels a communities’ economic growth and prosperity.
This region is full of opportunities and we work hard every day to be sure every graduate in Prince George’s County and throughout the region is ready.
VPP and Ready for Work were created to make sure they are ready. With that as our mission, we do not give up. For our youth to thrive, businesses to thrive, and the community to thrive, we cannot afford to give up.
Our region is undergoing constant change. With each new building and each new business comes a new promise, and it is up to us to make sure those promises are kept. It is more important than ever that we ensure the young people who call Greater Washington home are ready for these new opportunities. They want to continue to live in this region and contribute to our collective well-being.
It takes an entire region working together – government, schools, nonprofits and businesses to equip young people with knowledge and real-world skills. Together, we are connecting our students to internships and summer jobs where they can take the first steps on a career path and toward thriving adulthood.
We are making the case to private employers about the benefit and economic value of hiring high school-aged employees. We have helped recruit 15 new private employers to join the Summer Youth Enrichment Program, which helped employ the 3,100 students that SYEP served last summer.
Across our three partner high schools over 3,000 students are served by Ready for Work every year. Suitland High School reported that 100% of their nursing and construction graduates passed their certification tests and graduated with an industry recognized credential as a result of the after-school tutoring that VPP supported.
With the goal of expanding Ready for Work, we are – in partnership with the County Council – strengthening the capacity of eight local nonprofit organizations so they can serve more young people.
Tonight, we honor the leaders without whom Ready for Work would not exist: Former County Executive Rushern Baker, Milt Peterson and his family, and Kaiser Permanente.
Ready for Work is an ambitious initiative. Each of our honorees has been a crucial partner in forging this collaboration. VPP thanks you for staying the course, for your belief in Prince George’s County, your vision and partnership in making Ready for Work a success.
As Greater Washington changes, so do its needs. At VPP, we are always listening to our community. Their voices and their needs guide everything we do.
VPP goes deep – you can’t expect big change if you just invest in the status quo. We invest in people, leaders and community. Together, we leverage our resources and expertise to build better systems and strengthen the capacity of organizations that increase opportunities for our region’s youth.
And when we do, those leaders and organizations can invest more time and energy into helping every young person open the doors of opportunity that have too long been closed to them. Then, and only then, is change in Greater Washington sustainable.
Thank you for joining us tonight to support the future of our young people which in turn will make our region stronger. As VPP approaches 20 years, we appreciate those who have been on this journey with us.
And for those who are just learning about VPP, please join us.
Watch the video below to learn the story of Myles and Mikenzie Blagmon, two graduating seniors that are part of Ready for Work. Their story shows the powerful impact that we can make when we work together to transform the trajectory of young people’s lives.