Impact Stories


Equity, Access & Opportunity

Stories of Impact in the Greater Washington Region 


Since 1973, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region has been at the forefront in addressing community need and catalyzing change. This report focuses specifically on the impact of our work in the years after the 2008 economic downturn, a tumultuous period during which those keystones of economic security – quality education, the right job training, and basic needs such as housing and food – became more critical than ever. Click to read our story. 


Impact Story: Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School

Career Opportunities in the Hospitality Field

“If an employee has this credential, it gives him or her a leg up.” - Mandy Toomey, Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School

Since its founding 42 years ago, the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School in the District’s Columbia Heights neighborhood has served more than 60,000 students and won numerous awards for its adult education programs. One of its most popular offerings is the culinary arts program, which last fall received a grant from the Walmart Washington@Work Work Readiness Initiative, a partnership between the Walmart Foundation and the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region.

Funds from the grant are being used to increase enrollment, create a customer service training program and add more basic math and technology training. “Not everyone knows how to create a resume, manage email or use the Internet to look for a job,” says communications associate Mandy Toomey, adding that the school’s technology training “will help address the digital divide and level the playing field.”

With support from the grant, Carlos Rosario is also offering a Spanish language ServSafe certification course, which covers everything from food safety to personal hygiene. “Every restaurant or food operation needs at least one person with a food safety manager license,” notes Toomey. “If an employee has this credential, it gives him or her a leg up.”

Carlos Rosario’s culinary arts curriculum is based on both projected industry growth and demand in the Washington region. Recent research shows that restaurant and hotel employees (as well as computer support specialists and nurse aides) will be increasingly in demand and that these occupations provide a variety of opportunities for workers to continually advance their careers and income.

“We are excited to be awarded this grant and to be part of the Walmart Foundation’s investment in Washington, D.C.,” said Allison R. Kokkoros, Chief Academic Officer of Carlos Rosario. “This award enables us to take 250 students off of our waiting list of more than 1,000 applicants and equip them with the job skills, certifications and support necessary to enter into careers in the retail and hospitality industries.”

Alumna Sonia Ramirez represents the opportunities that await future graduates. When Ramirez came to the United States in the late 1990s, her husband brought her to the Carlos Rosario School and encouraged her to take ESL classes to build on her limited English knowledge. As her English improved, so did her employment opportunities. In 2003, Ramirez began washing dishes at the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown. When hotel managers saw how dedicated she was to her studies, they promoted her first to a job in the employee cafeteria and then a prep cook position.

Around that time, she enrolled in Rosario’s culinary arts career training course. At the end of her intensive, yearlong training, she received a raise and promotion to pantry chef at Fahrenheit Restaurant. In 2007, she was named Employee of the Year.

Looking ahead, Ramirez hopes to open her own catering business. Reflecting on the role her training played in her life, she said, “Without Carlos Rosario, I don’t know how my life in the U.S. would be today.”

In addition to the original Washington@Work grant, Rosario recently received a capacity building grant to evaluate its math/technology, customer service and ServSafe programs. Those findings will allow the school’s leadership to reflect on its work and make improvements for the future.

Impact Story: Career Navigator

“Supporting entry-level staff in their career development offers many benefits for healthcare employers.” - Sarah Oldmixon, The Community Foundation

A new program is helping three local hospitals develop the skilled workforce they need to provide high-quality care, while helping healthcare workers advance their careers.

“Career Navigators” is an initiative of the Greater Washington Regional Alliance for Careers in Health (ReACH), a group of philanthropic funders, employers, and other stakeholders who came together to address pressing healthcare workforce challenges. The Community Foundation’s Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative, led by Sarah Oldmixon, provides financial support.

The initiative was developed to help healthcare employers create career pathways that allow entry-level staff (such as those working in food service, environmental service, and patient transport) to advance into in-demand healthcare occupations. “By offering entry-level workers opportunities to acquire career guidance, education and training, employers can address current and projected workforce needs by growing their own workforce for a variety of patient care, technical and administrative occupations,” said project director Kate O’Sullivan.

Supporting entry-level staff in their career development offers many other benefits for healthcare employers, Oldmixon points out. “These include a better skilled and more productive workforce, reduced turnover and recruitment costs, enhanced quality of care, better team functioning and improved worker morale,” she said.

The Career Navigators initiative was launched in March 2011 with grants to Holy Cross Hospital, Suburban Hospital, and MedStar Montgomery Medical Center (formerly Montgomery General Hospital). In addition to a $25,000 grant, each institution was given $25,000 of technical assistance and invested $50,000 of their own resources in the program.

“With the help of the Career Navigators initiative, we have created a learning continuum beginning with English as a Second Language, moving through literacy classes, and onto School at Work, a Catalyst product that helps prepare employees to move to the next step, whether that’s a community college, four-year university, or training program. Our employees greatly benefit from the coaching support Tiffany Hodge, our career navigator, provides,” said Kate Davis, Director of Learning and Organizational Development at MedStar Montgomery.

The Career Navigators approach is comprised of three key components: career coaching, educational opportunities and career mapping. Career coaches help entry-level workers understand career pathways, set career goals and pursue and succeed in education and training. Building on career coaching, “learning while working” allows employees to continue working in their current position while obtaining the education, training and experience they need to advance their careers. Educational opportunities include ESOL; literacy and numeracy skills development; preparation for postsecondary education or training; and connection to postsecondary education, including tuition support. Finally, grantee institutions develop career maps that document the education, training and experience employees need to acquire to advance from entry-level jobs to careers in in-demand healthcare occupations (for example, illustrating a pathway from food service worker to sterile processing technician to surgical technician). Career maps help workers understand how to prepare for key occupations that are currently in demand or projected to be in demand in the near future and demonstrate how workers can increase their earnings as they increase their skills.

Building on the success of these initial investments, the program will expand to include additional hospitals in the coming year.

Impact Story: Walmart Washington@Work

A new partnership between The Community Foundation and Walmart is providing multi-year strategic workforce development grants to nonprofit organizations in the District. (See related story about Rosario International Public Charter School.) The Community Foundation’s Walmart Washington@Work Initiative is designed to help D.C. residents get the skills and training they need to find employment.

The partnership was launched in August, when Walmart announced a strategic partnership with The Community Foundation and the University of the District of Columbia Community College (CCDC) on a workforce development initiative which invests $3 million locally to prepare D.C. residents for jobs in the customer service and retail sectors. The program offers literacy, customer service and retail training to 2,000 District residents.

“The District needs the kind of partnerships that Walmart and The Community Foundation have forged,” says Terri Lee Freeman, President of The Community Foundation. “Through these investments we are helping more than a thousand District residents build their skills, improve their lives and become employed.”

As a part of the initiative developed by Walmart, The Community Foundation and CCDC, the Foundation oversaw an open grant competition for $1.25 million from the Walmart Foundation. Grantees include Covenant House, Carlos Rosario International School, Goodwill of Greater Washington, Latin American Youth Center and So Others Might Eat.

“We set out to help thousands of D.C. residents gain the skills they need to be more competitive for jobs,” said Michelle Gilliard, senior director at the Walmart Foundation. “We look forward to our continued work with our new partners putting folks to work, whether as Walmart associates or employees at other businesses across D.C. and the region.”

The funding supports programs in all eight D.C. wards and is designed to improve residents' skills such as English as a second language, computer literacy, math and customer service training. All participants have access to job recruitment, career counseling and job placement services for customer service opportunities at companies across D.C., including future Walmart stores.