Robyn Attebury Ellis Joins Crimsonbridge to Lead College Success Work

Washington, DC – The Crimsonbridge Foundation welcomes Robyn Attebury Ellis as its new program officer for College Success and Leadership.  Since its inception in 2015, Crimsonbridge has invested in nonprofit leadership programs and in first-generation college success programs at universities, nonprofits, and research institutions. Ellis, who most recently served as the Director of College Readiness and Community Outreach at the University of the District of Columbia Community College (UDC-CC), will lead the expansion of programming and grantmaking in these two areas.

In her most recent role at UDC-CC, Ellis provided leadership and direction for college readiness programming and managed the largest and most inclusive dual enrollment program in the District of Columbia, establishing partnerships with 45 DC public and charter high schools and adult education programs.

Prior to joining UDC-CC, she worked as the Early College Coordinator at Bell Multicultural High School, a District of Columbia Public School, where she managed the early college and early high school programs and taught a college seminar. Before moving to DC, Ellis was the College Persistence and Volunteer Coordinator at Breakthrough Austin where she also mentored teachers in an intensive summer program for middle school students, the first in their family to go to college.

“Robyn not only comes with exceptional experience, but a true passion for helping students succeed in college and beyond.” says Danielle M. Reyes, executive director of the Crimsonbridge Foundation.

A native of Texas, Ellis received her bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Texas at Austin and holds a master’s degree in Comparative Education from the Institute of Education at the University of London in England. She lives in DC with her partner and their two children.

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Crimsonbridge’s Danielle M. Reyes joins DC Bar Foundation Board of Directors

October 2019

The District of Columbia Bar Foundation has elected Danielle M. Reyes, executive director of the Crimsonbridge Foundation, as one of three new members to its Board of Directors. In joining the Foundation’s Board, these individuals demonstrate their commitment to ensuring that all District residents have a fair and equal legal experience.

For DC residents in poverty, the DC Bar Foundation makes strategic investments to strengthen and expand the civil legal aid network, addressing critical needs and improving our community. As the largest funder of civil legal aid in the District, it is a steadfast community partner, committed to protecting access to justice in life’s most pivotal moments.

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College Success Foundation - District of Columbia video

Feel the Hope. See the Change.

September 2019

Since 2006, the College Success Foundation – District of Columbia (CSF-DC) has worked to address the critically low college graduation rate (27%) of students from Washington, DC’s Wards 7 and 8. CSF-DC integrates a comprehensive system of academic, social, emotional, and financial services for its students, staying with them for up to 10 years and beyond. In this video from CSF-DC, a community partner in our College Completion Colleagues (C3) Initiative, hear the hopes and accomplishments of a few of its graduates.

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Making the College Dream Possible for Teen Parents

August 2019

The more than 1 in 5 college students who are parents face a unique set of challenges on their path to and through college. As a result, fewer than 2% of teen mothers nationally who have a child before age 18 go on to complete college before age 30. Generation Hope, a community partner in our College Completion Colleagues (C3) Initiative, provides mentoring, resources, and services to help D.C. area teen parents become college graduates and helps their children enter kindergarten at higher levels of school readiness. In the post, “How to Make the College Dream Possible,” Generation Hope shares opportunities for each of us to support this often overlooked group of college students.

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Anne Hundertmark

Exploration of the Social Sector

Anne Hundertmark August 2019

Anne Hundertmark is a rising senior at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, attending the Haub School of Business and majoring in Leadership, Ethics, and Organizational Sustainability with minors in English and Finance. She joined the Crimsonbridge Foundation as a Philanthropy Fellow this summer, working with staff on projects related to its programs and grantmaking in education, leadership, and capacity building. In the following post, Anne shares reflections from her fellowship and exploration of the social sector.

From a young age, my parents instilled in me the idea that, if I had the ability, it was my responsibility to serve others. In middle school, this meant joining the Community Service Club at recess to clean teachers’ blackboards and organize supplies. In high school, these responsibilities developed further as I was awarded the Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Ambassador Awards for service projects with the Girl Scouts. But it wasn’t until I entered college, when I began seeking work experience in the social sector, that I truly understood the power and impact of a community.

One of the reasons I chose to attend Saint Joseph’s University was because of its focus on serving others. I spent my freshman year as part of a Philadelphia service immersion program where I volunteered at a different site each week and learned from site leaders about the systematic barriers facing the Philadelphia community. That year, I applied to work as a Development Intern at Horton’s Kids, a nonprofit in Washington, DC that serves the children and families of Wellington Park. I worked at Horton’s Kids for two summers and witnessed the intensity of a nonprofit’s effort, strategy, and impact.

Working at Crimsonbridge Foundation has been an invaluable opportunity to explore another facet of the social/nonprofit sector. Having formerly worked at a nonprofit, I already understood the significance of a funder’s financial support. However, this summer, I witnessed the role a foundation can play as a resource, partner, and community member:

A Resource. Nonprofits oftentimes work directly with members of the community and are therefore well-equipped to understand the challenges faced by the people they serve. At Crimsonbridge, I learned that foundations are equipped to take on the role of devoting time and resources to researching and learning more about these systemic issues that exist in the community. This research allows foundations to develop an understanding of the broader landscape of needs so they can serve as a resource to nonprofits when providing program-specific grants.

A Partner. Crimsonbridge fosters connections within its network of nonprofits, leaders, and philanthropic organizations. As a partner, Crimsonbridge seeks to advance and strengthen networks so that changemakers can benefit from others’ experience. I found that Crimsonbridge embodied this especially through its leadership and partnership which supported establishment of the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal School.

A Community Member. When working at a nonprofit, I was immersed in the nonprofit’s daily operations, celebrations, and events. At Crimsonbridge, I discovered a different, but strong, connection between the foundation and its nonprofit partners. As a team, we celebrate their victories, learn from their experiences, and seek out opportunities to engage with the community.

Working as the Philanthropy Fellow at Crimsonbridge Foundation allowed me to deepen my understanding of the philanthropic world and develop workplace research, writing, and partnership skills. But more importantly, this fellowship allowed me to develop as a greater, more-informed member of the community. Regardless of whether my future leads to a career in philanthropy, I have appreciated the opportunity to learn how to better serve the community and act as an agent for social change.

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Barriers to Entry

Barriers to Entry

August 2019

Students who come from under-resourced communities or are the first generation in their family to go to college face a host of obstacles as they prepare for education and careers after high school. A new publication by Collegiate Directions, Inc., (CDI) explores the barriers these students often face in being accepted to, attending, and graduating from a college or university. CDI, a community partner in our College Completion Colleagues (C3) Initiative, provides wraparound services to more than 1,200 students annually ensuring they receive everything necessary to persist through and graduate from college, including emotional support, counseling, and emergency assistance. The publication shares the effects of limited resources and limited knowledge about the college process on academic readiness, financial aid, and overall opportunity for academic success.

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Destination Workforce training

Transforming Employee Lives and Businesses through English Literacy

August 2019

Joanna White, Regional Director of Food and Beverage at the Hilton DoubleTree owned and managed by B.F. Saul in Tyson’s Corner, VA, witnessed the emotional toll that a language barrier caused a Spanish-speaking member of her staff who was attempting to answer a customer’s question. “They will not speak up [again] because we didn’t teach them the right way.”

Recognizing that many of her employees were English-language learners, Joanna and Tish McFadden, DoubleTree’s HR Director, took action. With the support of the hotel’s General Manager and B.F. Saul, Joanna and Tish now oversee the hotel’s partnership with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia (LCNV) and its Destination Workforce® program. LCNV is a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching adults the basic skills of reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English so they can access employment and educational opportunities and more fully and equitably participate in the community.

Launched in 2015, Destination Workforce® is a bold and innovative initiative that builds partnerships between LCNV and local businesses to offer courses for employees to learn English, gain industry-specific vocabulary and workplace skills, and earn credentials related to their industry. Earlier this year, Assistant Secretary Scott Stump from the US Department of Education visited LCNV to learn more about Destination Workforce® and the transformative impact LCNV is having in Northern Virginia. LCNV offers classes that combine language lessons with customer-service training to job-seeking English-language learners. Learners have the opportunity to obtain the Guest Service Gold® certification, a credential recognized by the American Hotel and Lodging Institute and widely applicable to any service-oriented sector.

Employers like B.F. Saul recognize that investing in the education and training of their employees, who represent the business each day, will increase guest loyalty and experience, reduce staff turnover, and increase productivity. Industry experts, like Joanna and Tish at B.F. Saul’s Hilton DoubleTree, were so attracted to LCNV’s mission that they decided to join LCNV’s team of Credential Trainers and facilitate opportunities for employer partners to meet promising job seekers and for graduates of the class to have access to new employment pathways.

The Crimsonbridge Foundation made a grant to LCNV in 2018 to expand Destination Workforce® and develop a new curriculum in another high-demand industry. “We know that learning English allows our students to engage in their communities as successful workers, proactive parents, and engaged citizens,” shared LCNV Executive Director Roopal Mehta Saran. “Thanks to Crimsonbridge Foundation, our adult neighbors learn English so they can become influencers, organizers, voters, change-seekers, and change-makers.”

With the help of a pro bono consulting team from Accenture, LCNV chose to expand to the restaurant industry and launched a partnership in July with José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup, one of DC’s major restaurant groups. The class will be LCNV’s first program in DC and the 11-week course will serve employees from six local restaurants. Like LCNV’s other employer partners, ThinkFoodGroup will pay LCNV a fee for bringing this valuable education opportunity to their employees. Since launching Destination Workforce®, LCNV has explored various cost-share models. Some partners paid LCNV a fee for the course and their employees for the time they were in class. This is crucial as many employees have more than one job and cannot afford to spend extra hours at work if they are not being compensated. By helping to eliminate financial obstacles for their employees, a business is making a strong investment in their employees and brand.

Destination Workforce® not only benefits the business partners, but also transforms lives and communities. “When I first came to the United States, almost four years ago, I had nothing and I could not speak English,” shared Liyi, a participant of the Hilton Doubletree’s Destination Workforce® program. “I worked in a supermarket at night because I could not speak with the guests at the store. I was shy, I was sad, and I did not know what to do.” Liyi found that, through Destination Workforce®, she was able to earn an industry-recognized credential, obtain a higher-paying job that offers growth opportunities, and perform better in her career and within her community. “I am proud of myself because of my English and I feel like I am finally part of the United States. Finally, I feel like a person again.”

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Learning Session: Supporting Students on the Journey to and through College

August 2019

With just 58% of students earning a college degree within six years, there are now more college dropouts than high school dropouts in the United States. These young adults are leaving college campuses with debt, but without a degree. For students from under-resourced families who are also the first in their family to go to college the numbers are more stark—just 11% are earning a college degree.

A recent Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers learning session explored the challenges that many students in our region face in the journey to and through college, the key supports and services that help students thrive in college, what quality looks like in such programs, and how philanthropy can effectively engage to ensure everyone has the opportunity for postsecondary success.

Elizabeth Morgan of the National College Access Network (NCAN) kicked off the conversation sharing national statistics and the limits of information available regionally around college access and competition.

Crimsonbridge Foundation Executive Director Danielle Reyes then moderated a panel discussion with nonprofit leaders Amma Felix, President of Collegiate Directions, Julie Green, Executive Director of New Futures, and Nicole Lynn Lewis, CEO of Generation Hope. All three of these organizations are members of the College Completion Colleagues (C3) Initiative. This initiative serves as a partnership between Crimsonbridge, the Scheidel Foundation, and six nonprofits to share ideas, learn from successes and mistakes, and partner to solve issues. The nonprofit partners in the C3 Initiative, including the three represented in the panel, act to support and eliminate barriers facing first-generation and under-resourced students. Collegiate Directions supports students financially, academically, and culturally throughout high school and into post-grad life. New Futures focuses on aiding under-served students through certifications and community colleges with scholarships, academic advising, and career coaching. Generation Hope, provides mentoring, resources, and services to help teen parents become college graduates and their children enter kindergarten at higher levels of school readiness.

The conversation focused on topics such as capacity building opportunities within the organizations, the importance and role of current and prospective partnerships, and barriers facing students. The panelists shared how each of their organizations would benefit from strengthened partnerships with colleges and universities and involvement from state-level representatives. Nicole emphasized the significance of having available completion funds, or flexible money, for students who need emergency financial assistance in order to continue with their college education. And finally, all three of the panelists agreed that communications work is key in changing the narrative so that the students are viewed as young adults with a right to a college education and the resources necessary to complete their college education.

Overall, the conversation imparted the message that financial investments do not support these students alone, but that the personal support of mentors, partners, colleges and universities, funders, and policy-makers are all instrumental in determining the future of a young adult striving to complete their education.

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New Futures infographic

Disrupting the Conversation Around Four-Year Degrees

July 2019

New Futures helps under-resourced young people in the Greater Washington region forge their own path to college success—one that prioritizes community college and shorter-term postsecondary credentials as the first best step to launching a rewarding career quickly and affordably. For nearly 200 program participants each year, New Futures provides financial scholarships, academic advising, skills-building workshops, and career coaching, all with a focus on careers in high-growth fields. In a new infographic, New Futures, a community partner in our College Completion Colleagues (C3) Initiative, shares what sets their program apart and the impact it is having on the young people they serve.

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