The McElhattan Foundation believes that learning - about oneself and the world around us - is at the core of human life. After all, we learn throughout our entire lives, and in many different settings from school to home and everything in between. Learning brings joy, frustration, resilience, understanding, and purpose to our lives. It is so powerful that when shared equitably, education can break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Unfortunately, many in our region, specifically children living in poverty and people of color, do not have equitable access to high-quality learning opportunities and effective educators. There are complex and systemic issues of racial and economic injustice at work. To address these issues, the McElhattan Foundation hopes to expand access to high-quality learning opportunities. Our approach to changemaking is to invest our resources in several high-need, high-impact areas. At this time, we will focus our education investments in out-of-school-time-learning.
Out-of-school-time learning (OST): Based on a growing body of research, we know that interest-driven experiences in OST settings are key to unlocking the critical learning and life skills that help children to flourish. Because learning does not stop when the school day ends, we know that after-school and summer learning programs, as well as OST programs happening in museums, parks, and libraries, offer rich opportunities for learning and growth. We want to invest in OST learning experiences where youth can connect to positive adult mentors, feel safe to try new things, and have the opportunity to acquire and hone new skills.
We want to strengthen and expand OST learning in the Pittsburgh region to ensure that programming is more widely available to the students who need it most. Through this funding focus, we will prioritize investments in organizations providing after-school, summer learning, and informal learning opportunities for children living in poverty and/or people of color.
We want to expand quality learning experiences and are interested in funding organizations that demonstrate a commitment to implementing critical quality standards, including:
- social-emotional learning and skill development
- positive relationship development among youth and with trusted adult mentors
- youth-centered approaches that help individuals build on their strengths and talents; and
- strong partnerships with families and schools
A note for the fall 2020 grant cycle: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on our education system, swiftly revealing its strengths and weaknesses. Never before has the importance of educators been more widely recognized. Further, we have come to a collective understanding of the role our schools play in providing basic needs, such as food and clothing, to students in high-need schools.
Prior to the pandemic, the McElhattan Foundation envisioned working towards a goal to ensure that a quality after-school program existed within walking distance of every school in the Pittsburgh region. This goal remains; however, we feel that our resources will be best invested in the short term by helping OST providers meet operational needs and strengthen capacity. When expanding in-person OST coverage makes sense, we will enthusiastically fund it.
With remote learning rolling out across the nation and a lack of certainty about what the fall will bring for schools and students, we will focus our Education giving in the area of out-of-school-time learning for our fall 2020 grantmaking cycle. We will also prioritize organizations with operating budgets of $10 million or less.