Real People. Real Change.

We encourage our grantees to provide regular updates on all the things they are doing to bring about positive change in the world. These are their stories. For a comprehensive listing of the grants we have provided, click here.




Preparing Families for Kindergarten

Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) is a family-focused kindergarten-readiness program that works collaboratively with families, schools, and the community. SPARK helps children prepare for school by building language, reading, and social skills and seeking to create a seamless transition into school for children between the ages of 4 and 6. 

SPARK parent partners deliver monthly home- (and occasional group)-based lessons and activities to families of preschool-aged children. The structured lesson plans and activities SPARK offers are aligned with the Ohio Department of Education’s Early Learning and Development Standards. In partnership with community agencies and schools, SPARK ensures that barriers to school readiness are removed. Children with developmental, social, emotional, or mental health issues are referred to community resources to address issues before they prevent school readiness. SPARK completes a series of screenings and assessments to identify and monitor the child’s development.

Each month, a SPARK Parent Partner visits children in their home. During this monthly home visit, a parent or guardian must be present and active in the session, serving as the child’s Learning Advocate. The SPARK Parent Partner models activities for the parent or guardian, coaching them in strategies to enhance the education experience of their child. Through these interactions in the home, it is intended that the child becomes ready for kindergarten and also that the parent or guardian gains confidence, knowledge, and ability to serve as the primary educator in their child’s life and development. 

If you’d like to enroll your preschool-aged child in SPARK, call or text 937-561-2451 for more information. 


Year Up

Year Up

Closing the Opportunity Divide One Student at a Time

Year Up is a national organization that provides urban young adults (ages 18-24) with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. Through a one-year intensive program, Year Up utilizes a high support, high expectations model that combines marketable job skills, stipends, internships and college credits. For the first six months of the program, students develop technical and professional skills in the classroom. Students then apply those skills during the second six months at an internship at one of Year Up’s corporate partners. Students earn college credits and a weekly stipend, and are supported by staff advisors, professional mentors, dedicated social services staff, and a powerful network of community-based partners.

Year Up has grown because it works. It currently has sites in eleven U.S. cities including: Arizona, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Jacksonville, the National Capital Region, New York City, Philadelphia, Providence, Puget Sound, San Francisco Bay Area, and South Florida. In 2017, Year Up will serve 3,600 young adults, with plans to open a new site which is yet to be determined. More than 85% of Year Up graduates are employed or enrolled in school full-time within four months of graduation, earning an average starting wage of $18/hour, equivalent to $36,000 a year.

The program’s holistic approach focusing on students' professional and personal development to place young adults on a viable path to economic self-sufficiency aligns perfectly with the mission of the Wilson Sheehan Foundation to empower people to elevate their quality of life in enduring ways. We are proud to support Year Up’s Opportunity Campaign III which will fund the expansion of the program to nearly 35,000 students over the next five years and at the same time significantly reduce the cost per student served, enabling them to scale sustainably.  

More information about Year Up can be found on their website.



Saint Ignatius School

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Through Education 

Based in the South Bronx in New York, Saint Ignatius School (SIS) has been educating promising middle school children from low-income, underserved families for over twenty years. SIS provides an academically rigorous faith-based education to prepare students for high school, college and beyond with the intention of breaking the cycle of poverty that may otherwise continue in the families SIS serves. 

In conjunction with its thorough classroom education, SIS uses three integrated program components that increase the effectiveness of the academic program: the Extended Day, Summer Leadership, and Graduate Support programs, allowing SIS to support students after school, year round, and throughout high school. This holistic approach to education has proven to be successful. In the past three years, 100% of SIS alumni graduated from high school — twice the rate of peers in local public schools. Many SIS students are the first in their families to receive a high school diploma. 

The Wilson Sheehan Foundation is proud to partner with Saint Ignatius by providing a capacity building grant for administrative costs. Providing such funding has allowed the strong and determined SIS leadership team to grow and to continue its efforts in changing the lives of children in the South Bronx. To read more about SIS, click here.



The GO Project

Holistic Education, Successful Families

For the past 49 years, the GO Project has been dedicated to providing academic, social and emotional support to low-income elementary and middle school students living in New York City. Over half of GO participants have a special education classification, and many struggle with social and emotional challenges. Students benefit from tailored academic instruction on Saturday morning’s during the school year, and a 5-week, full-day summer program that blends academics and enrichment. By the time they graduate from GO, students will have received more than 2,000 additional instructional hours. With an adult to student ratio of 1:4, students receive individualized attention and develop strong academic and soft skills needed to succeed. 

The work of The GO Project goes beyond the classroom. With a team of social workers they provide counseling, workshops, support and advocacy for special education needs, and referrals to outside agencies for GO families. With this holistic approach to education, GO leads children and families to succeed at school, at home, and in life as evidenced by their outcome measures. Notably, on average, GO Project students gain 2 months in reading and math during the 5 week summer program; and 98% of students are promoted on time each year across all grades.        

The Wilson Sheehan Foundation is pleased to partner with an organization who grounds their work in assessment and provides effective, holistic support services to students and families. To learn more about The GO Project, you can visit their website.



The Cristo Rey Network

Education Beyond the Classroom

The Cristo Rey Network is the only network of high schools in the country that integrates four years of rigorous college preparatory academics with four years of professional work experience. Comprised of 32 Catholic, college preparatory schools, the Cristo Rey Network delivers a successful and innovative approach to inner-city education that equips students from economically disadvantaged families with the knowledge, character, and skills to transform their lives. To strengthen its support of students and graduates on their path to and through college, Cristo Rey recently launched the College Initiatives 360 program which the Wilson Sheehan Foundation was pleased to fund.  

College Initiatives 360 is a multi-pronged program designed to equip Cristo Rey schools with the resources necessary to actualize the commitment to closing the graduation gap among first generation and low-income students. By improving match, access, and persistence, the Cristo Rey Network hopes to double its college completion rate to 70% by 2020. 

The name “360” refers to the program’s wrap-around approach. With five focus areas, both current students and alumni will see benefits of the initiative. These focus areas include plans to strengthen and expand college counseling in its schools, improve technological support to counselors and students, build and strengthen university partnerships, launch a college success fund, and expand the use of AlumniConnect-an online program for Cristo Rey graduates to touch base with counselors. 

The Wilson Sheehan Foundation’s investment is a meaningful step in building institutional capabilities across the Cristo Rey network, which we hope will be supplemented by additional local initiatives, to help Cristo Rey students continue the success in college which they achieved in high school.

Watch here to gain more insight into the Cristo Rey Network.


World Vision’s Water Initiative 

Providing Basic Needs, Creating Opportunity to Flourish

A child dies every two minutes from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation and hygiene practices. In addition, women and children spend 200 million hours a day hauling water resulting in an enormous loss in productivity and school absenteeism. In response, World Vision has created a streamlined focus on providing clean water to developing countries and the numbers reflect its success. Currently, World Vision provides clean drinking water to a new person every 10 seconds. By entering communities and creating partnerships, World Vision does more than provide water--they educate community members in sanitation and hygiene solutions and train community leaders about proper pump operation and maintenance. Their unique model has resulted in longer lifespans of each well, with nearly 80 percent of wells remaining in use after two decades. The wells that provide families access to clean water are a gift of life and enable communities to grow.

Supporting transformational initiatives through community engagement and education is a top priority for the Wilson Sheehan Foundation. We applaud World Vision on the success of their water initiative model.  

For more information on World Vision's Clean Water Initiative, click here.



Mercy Learning Center 

Changing Lives with Literacy and Life Skills 

Mercy Learning Center of Bridgeport, Inc. (MLC) provides basic literacy and life skills training to low-income women using a holistic approach within a compassionate, supportive environment.  Founded in 1987 by two educators in a local elementary school to assist mothers who wanted to help their children succeed, MLC started as a one-on-one tutoring program.  Today, the center offers comprehensive full- and part-time literacy and life skills programs, an educational childcare program and ancillary services to over 850 women and 160 of their children each year. Having served more than 10,000 women and their children since its beginnings, MLC is helping to improve the quality of life for women and families throughout Greater Bridgeport.

The Wilson Sheehan Foundation has provided leadership and leverage to Mercy Learning Center through signature sponsorship of MLC’s annual fundraising gala.  The event has successfully raised a significant portion of the center’s annual budget in recent years and has allowed for the center to expand outreach to educate and empower more women and children each year.

For more information about the Mercy Learning Center, please visit their website.



Fun, Farming, Responsibility 

On-the-Rise is a nonprofit organization focused on serving the underprivileged and at-risk youth, ages 9 to 16, who are struggling with various behavioral issues. The program focuses on teaching responsibility, work ethic, positive self-image, and compassion through farm work and tough love. 

Located just outside of Springfield, OH, the On-the-Rise farm is home to 46 goats and 52 chickens. Four days a week students are transported directly from school to the farm until late evening. At the farm students are required to do homework, feed and tend to the animals, help with chores and participate in a family-style dinner. The combination of working with the animals and being held accountable for their behavior and academic performance helps these students become responsible young adults.

Executive Director, Deb McCullough, runs the program. Over the past 14 years, OTR has grown and developed the program significantly. With this growth, space was quickly becoming an issue. With the help of the Wilson Sheehan Foundation, On-the-Rise was able to convert a preexisting shed into versatile classroom space. The Wilson Sheehan Foundation was proud to help create a more spacious and comfortable environment for these children.

To stay up to date on the happenings of the farm, follow On-the-Rise on Facebook.