As the year comes to a close, VPP is taking time to reflect on the work we have done this year and consider what lies ahead. 2018 has been a year full of change and growth, both in our investments and within our own organization. I am grateful for the support and partnerships that we have seen throughout this region that make this growth possible. The work of improving the lives of young people in Greater Washington is too big for just one person or organization: It requires collaboration of people across different sectors focused on the same mission.
That’s why VPP invests in networks, like our Ready for Work initiative in Prince George’s County. By bringing together partners in government, business and the nonprofit sector, we’ve been able to strengthen the Career and Technical Education programs in Suitland, High Point and Oxon Hill High Schools. Last school year, more than 1,400 students across all three high schools enrolled in CTE programs, helping them gain the skills and knowledge to graduate career- and college-ready.
We recently shared some of the success we’ve seen at Suitland High School and its youthCONNECT program, much of which comes from having an on-the-ground presence through In-School Director Sterlind Burke. So we’re excited to begin designing a youthCONNECT network for High Point High School. We have just welcomed Shontia Lowe to be our In-School Director for High Point, who will work with the school and our partners to build a youthCONNECT program that meets the needs of students in the school.
To help more students have meaningful work experiences, the Prince George’s County’s summer internship program, Youth@Work/Student Youth Enrichment Program, connected with 14 private sector employers with support from our strategic assistance. These connections create additional positions so more students can intern and gain work experience while learning about different career paths they can pursue, even in unexpected sectors.
And of course, VPP continues to invest in strengthening individual, innovative organizations to increase their capacity to ensure young people have the tools and resources they need to become successful adults. Last year, we launched our co-investment with Education Forward DC and the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation to bring Relay Graduate School of Education to DC. Like the rest of our nation, our region faces a shortage of high-quality teachers. We are proud to say that this school year, Relay has served 103 teachers by providing them with an innovative, cost-effective path to graduate degrees and credentials in teacher education and school leadership that equip them to educate students in our region.
VPP’s investment in Higher Achievement has also shown growth. This year, we kicked off an investment of over $900,000 in Higher Achievement to support its mission to close the opportunity gap for students during the critical middle school years. As of this Fall, Higher Achievement served over 1,200 students – exceeding our expected target for 2018.
As part of the collaborative Raise DC, VPP and other organizations align resources and strategies to fill gaps and spread practices that work. I am pleased to serve on their leadership council, and VPP serves as co-chair of their Disconnected Youth Change Network, which helps young people who aren’t in work or school get back on track. Together, we advise the District ReEngagement Center, which has served more than 1705 disconnected youth since its October 2015 launch. Since then, many have enrolled in an educational program and more than 92 have earned a secondary credential.
Proper reflection also means looking inward, at VPP’s own team, to ensure that we are investing in ourselves and are positioned to meet the demands of our young people. I am so proud of our team for all that we have accomplished this year and will continue to do in the coming year.
This year, we welcomed Curt Buser, Dr. Charlene Dukes and Doyle Mitchell to the VPP Board of Directors. Each comes to VPP with invaluable skills and expertise that strengthen the organization. We are grateful to the new investors and donors who also joined the VPP family in 2018. The commitment of our Board, investors and donors help more vulnerable young people in our community access the services and resources they need to have brighter futures.
We also participated in community conversations, to learn and share news about our region, its changing social landscape and where philanthropy is headed.
Heading into 2019, we will continue to support and strengthen organizations, relationships and networks that make the future brighter for the young people of Greater Washington. We saw many changes in leadership throughout our region this year, and we will continue building relationships to ensure that we are all aligned in our goals for young people.
With Opportunity Zones and the big announcement about Amazon bringing one of its headquarters to our region, we see open dialogue and collaboration as more important than ever to ensure that these opportunities work effectively and help all of Greater Washington grow.
Looking back at this year, I am heartened and inspired by what we have accomplished and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. We will continue to work together with all of you toward making Greater Washington a place where every person can have a family that prospers, get a good education, obtain quality jobs and be happy to call our region home.
Carol Thompson Cole