Education

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. There are complex and systemic issues of racial and economic injustice at work. To address these issues, our approach is to invest in high-need, high-impact areas. Through careful consideration of evidence and urgency, we make grants to support out-of-school time learning and innovative approaches to expand educator diversity. 

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 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 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 

To apply for support in our out-of-school-time learning area, please review our application process  and take a look at our frequently asked questions. If you have additional questions, please email us at info@mcelhattan.org

Expanding Educator Diversity
We believe that excellent teachers and leaders are key to unlocking powerful learning experiences. Research shows that all students thrive when their educators are racially and ethnically diverse. This is especially true for students of color. The presence of teachers of color contributes to positive academic and non-academic outcomes (reduced absenteeism, increased admission to gifted programs, reduced dropout rates, and increased likelihood to enroll in four-year college) for students of color. 

However, while students of color account for 33% of learners in the Pittsburgh region, the overwhelming majority of educators in Allegheny County - 96% - are white. This lack of diversity contributes to the racial achievement gap and hinders the learning outcomes of our region’s children. It also plays a part in disincentivizing youth of color from pursuing careers in teaching.  

While our goal is clear--to increase the number of educators of color in our region--we understand the complexity of the challenge we face in achieving this goal. We recognize that expanding educator diversity is a pipeline problem, exacerbated by a history of systemic racism that shows up in policies, curricula, and culture. As we invest in this focus area, we seek to support and learn from leaders of color and organizations with a demonstrated commitment to addressing this issue. We remain open to implementing a variety of short- and long-term strategies to achieve our goal.

To accelerate equity in learning spaces in Allegheny County, the Foundation will begin making grants aimed at expanding educator diversity in Spring 2021. At this time, applications for funding in this area are being accepted by invitation only.

A note about the COVID-19 pandemic: As the pandemic continues, the McElhattan Foundation aims to provide flexible support to grant recipients in the OST focus area. To that end, we feel that our resources will be best invested by helping grantees to meet operational needs and maintain capacity. Therefore, we will direct the majority of our giving through general operating grants. We will also prioritize organizations with operating budgets of $10 million or less.


Webinar recording: A SAFER Return to In-Person Programming
This one-hour recorded webinar features expert advice from the National Safety Council and Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time (APOST) about specific health and safety measures educators can implement to provide a safe environment for youth, their families, and employees. The webinar is free, but registration is required to download the recording.