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.
The Drexel Fund
Supporting the Growth of Private School Networks across the Nation
The Drexel Fund provides growth funding to high-quality, nonprofit private school operators replicating their successful school models and launching innovative new models as part of a school network. The Drexel Fund is seeking to raise $85 million to support the creation of 50,000 high-quality, private school seats serving predominantly low- and middle-income students.
Drexel looks for a track-record of strong student achievement; an experienced leadership team with high expectations for all students and educators; teachers and school leaders actively using data to strengthen instructional practices; measurable success with character and/or faith development with their student body; a financially sustainable business model; and leadership committed and equipped to scale and replicate.
The Wilson Sheehan Foundation is partnering with the Drexel Fund to identify schools that align with our vision to combat poverty through education. Chris Wilson is a board member of the Drexel Fund.
More information about the Drexel Fund can be found on their website.
Increasing College Enrollment and Graduation Rates
Bottom Line helps first generation students from low-income backgrounds get in to college, graduate from college, and go far in life. Bottom Line was founded in 1997 as a small nonprofit organization supporting 25 high school seniors in Boston and has grown into a nationally recognized organization serving more than 7,000 first-generation students from Boston, New York City, and Chicago.
Bottom Line’s model is based around two highly effective programs: the Access Program ensures students get accepted and enrolled in a 4-year college and the Success Program makes sure students successfully complete their college degree. The organization’s community-based model is distinct in the college and career landscape because they invest in using full-time staff and employ a one-on-one approach using an innovative, evidenced-based curriculum.
Bottom Line’s programs have produced best-in-class college graduation outcomes for its students. Eighty percent of their students have earned their degree over the last two decades. That’s up to 4 times the national average for low-income students.
Supporting the replication of high quality, scientifically proven programs is a priority for the Wilson Sheehan Foundation. The Foundation’s funding supports the growth of Bottom Line’s recently established Chicago office. The Chicago office is currently serving 1,000 students with a goal to serve more than 2,000 students annually.
Visit the Bottom Line Chicago website to learn more.
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 preschool-aged children prepare for school by building their language, reading, and social skills.
SPARK parent partners deliver monthly home-based lessons to families of preschool-aged children. The structured lesson plans align with the Ohio Department of Education’s Early Learning and Development Standards.
The SPARK Parent Partner models activities for the parent or guardian, coaching them in strategies to enhance the education experience of their child. In addition, SPARK Parent Partners conduct screenings and assessments to identify and monitor the child’s development. Through these home-based lessons and screenings, it is intended that the child becomes ready for kindergarten and that the parent or guardian gains confidence, knowledge, and ability to serve as the primary educator in their child’s development.
To learn more about the program, call or text 937-561-2451.
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.
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.