Opening up opportunity for our nation’s youth

A mentor and her mentee pose for a photo by a pond in a park

At its best, America is a land of opportunity, where the only thing holding you back from the board room, the C-suite or even the Oval Office is hard work and determination.

But, for the 17.5 percent of children born into poverty in the U.S., America can be a land of obstacles. Barriers like underfunded school districts, absent or overworked parents and crime-ridden neighborhoods make it incredibly difficult for children to dream, let alone make their dreams a reality.

The outstanding organizations in our Youth & Education portfolio are fighting to change that. Whether it’s through mentorship, educational resources or community-building programs, all aspire to give today’s youth an opportunity to recognize and achieve their full potential. We’re thrilled to be investing $6.86 million in some of our most effective partners.

Take a look at their inspiring work:

ACE Scholarships

ACE Scholarships believe that students thrive when they’ve got an entire community investing in them. That’s why they partner with families and local private schools across the Midwest and the South to give students in low-income households the education they deserve. After a child’s parents select a private school for their child, ACE Scholarships contributes a third of thes tuition, with parents and the school itself funding the remainder. This not only gives children in low-income homes with a far better education than they might have otherwise received, but it ensures that the adults the child lives and studies with are invested in his or her education.

Urban Specialists

Dallas-based Urban Specialists works to change the destructive, sometimes violent elements of urban culture through its signature ‘three I’s’: invading urban culture, intruding on those that live amidst it to provide positive life experiences that would otherwise be inaccessible and instituting sustainable, long-term solutions. A variety of programs have resulted from this philosophy, all of which are designed to transform the experience and the lives of urban youth.

Education Opens Doors

Algebra, vocabulary, critical thinking – teachers spend years drilling these academic concepts into students’ heads to prepare them for college. But as important as these lessons are, students will never be able to use them if they don’t know how to pick a suitable post-secondary institution, identify sources of financial aid or write a sophisticated resume.

Recognizing this, Education Opens Doors seeks to train students in these vital, college-prep soft skills as early as middle school. Through the organization’s innovative design, students can get the most out of their high school experience and emerge ready to thrive in college.

Elevate USA

Elevate USA seeks to introduce stability into the lives of students in poverty, creating opportunities to experience consistent, ongoing care. In a comprehensive program that can stretch from second to twelfth grade, students get to know their teachers as trusted mentors who are available year-round and week-long. They form community through adventure activities and mentoring younger students, take classes that help them develop the personal skills necessary in college and beyond, and advising on their college and career trajectory.

Friends of the Children

Friends of the Children seeks to fill the void of strong, adult role models often present in the lives of children growing up in poverty. Program participants are mentored by professional adults over the course of 12.5 years, providing much-needed stability and support in the life of children in low-income homes. This, in turn, helps break the cycle of poverty and put the child on the path to success. While only 40 percent of the parents of program participants graduated high school, 83 percent Friends of the Children go on to do so.

Jeremiah Program

Jeremiah Program seeks to come alongside mothers parenting alone and grappling with the potentially lasting impacts of poverty on their children. They provide support both to single mothers and their children so that both have the best chance at success. Through critical services and caring community, the organization empowers women to support and care for their families without fear and achieve self-sufficiency.

Rise Up for Youth

Rise Up for Youth seeks to help Wichita-area high school students expand their sense of the possible. By creating a positive, close-knit community among students, building mentor relationships that promote personal development and exposing them to college and career opportunities in the area, the organization seeks to enable these young men and women to lead lives of self-respect and independence.

The Path Project

The Path Project brings the conviction of faith and the power of proximity to mobile home communities, establishing a community center right in the middle of the park and running a variety of programs for children and their families. Through these programs, children come to embrace the full measure of their worth and learn skills that will help them flourish in their relationships, in the classroom and (eventually) in the workplace.


Poverty damages the social fabric that supports young adults, leaving them to fend for themselves in an unfriendly world. Thread seeks to repair that fabric by pairing Baltimore students with a “Thread family” – a small group of volunteers who provide personal and academic support to the student. Ultimately, these volunteers befriend the family and friends of the student, creating a social safety network for the student that enables them to succeed in high school and in the years that follow.

Youth Guidance

Through its “Working on Womanhood” (WOW) and “Becoming a Man” (BAM) programs, Youth Guidance helps convert school into a space where students can genuinely be themselves, explore their vulnerabilities and frustrations, and form positive, supportive community among their peers. This transformation not only puts students in touch with themselves and their broader community, but it also significantly decreases their involvement in crime and increase their chances at timely graduation.

These are just ten of the 115-plus organizations Stand Together Foundation partners with to transform lives and communities around the country. We’re excited to share our Catalysts’ stories with you – see all of the investments made this month by signing up for updates here and joining the National Poverty Awareness Conversation at @StandTgthr #PovertyAwareness.

Want to get support one of these or other Catalysts? There are lots of ways you can get involved – click here to find out how.

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