Closing the Achievement Gap in Montgomery County

The Children’s Opportunity Fund champions and supports strategic investments to improve the lives of low-income children and families in Montgomery County. The Fund was launched jointly by the Montgomery County Government and Montgomery County Public Schools to identify priority areas for investment based on unmet need and to help align resources toward effective multi-sector collaborations serving the County’s most vulnerable youth and their families. In July 2017, the Fund made its inaugural grants which were leveraged against matching dollars to launch and expand innovative, evidence-informed programs throughout the county. We are pleased to report that the Fund recently made another $623,000 in grants to these high-impact organizations to further support their vital work:

Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL) works to create high-quality learning opportunities for the children who need them most, mobilizing schools and communities to expand learning time beyond the traditional school day and school year. The 2017 grant from the Children’s Opportunity Fund supported BELL’s Summer program which provided educational services to 1,134 rising 3-5th graders. For six and one-half hours per day, five days a week, the program blended academics with nutrition, enrichment, and mentorship at no cost to lower income families. The result was an increase in the average scholar’s literacy by 1.5 months and math skills by 3 months, increased self-confidence for 98% of scholars, and improved scholar attitudes about school which led to a 93% average daily attendance rate. Read about Bell’s efforts to prevent the ‘summer slide’ in an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun.

I have been inspired by Montgomery County’s commitment to equity in education. Families and MCPS educators have advocated for increasing access to the BELL Summer program with evidence-based instruction and engaging resources to accelerate scholars’ learning year-round. The Children Opportunity Fund’s visionary investment in BELL Summer has helped us double this collective impact in summer 2018 and serve 2,100 young people across 11 Title I MCPS schools!
— Damon Johnson, Vice President, Partner Impact, BELL

Family Service’s Thriving Germantown Collaboration. As Germantown has grown and become more diverse, so has the rate of increased poverty (16% versus 6% countywide) and the economic, health, and educational disparities for the most vulnerable residents. Over 20 community nonprofit partners established a five-year collective impact initiative, Thriving Germantown Community HUB, designed to help Germantown families connect to health care, early child care, adult education, employment, and more. Family Services, Inc. was selected to provide leadership for this multi-sector, multi-generational care coordination initiative to improve student/family health and wellness outcomes, achieve academic success, and ensure that children have safe, stable and nurturing environments in which to live. A grant from the Children’s Opportunity Fund supported the coordination of work around early childhood care and education. In its first year, Thriving Germantown provided 99 comprehensive family risk assessments and facilitated referrals and linkages to appropriate resources and services for 131 children, adults and families. Read more about the school and leaders behind the Thriving Germantown collaboration in Bethesda Magazine’s 2017 December cover story, “Hope Lives Here.”

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Partnerships are at the heart of Thriving Germantown – with families from the Daly School community, school staff, and over a dozen community health and social services organizations. The investments from COF are particularly helpful in supporting our early care and academic related service coordination. We’re excited to include as goals for the new year deepening our reach into the community, enhancing data sharing and collaboration with our partners, and developing a permanent shared nonprofit services facility for the Germantown community.
— Kylie McCleaf, CEO Family Services, Inc.

Urban Alliance is committed to helping underserved youth gain the experience, support, and training necessary to compete in the labor market and embark on a pathway to self-sufficiency. With the grant from the Children’s Opportunity Fund, Urban Alliance expanded its High School Internship Program into Montgomery County to provide career preparation and internships to high school seniors in the East County area. Through the program, students had the opportunity to gain significant professional development training, one-on-one mentoring from adult professionals, and paid, real-world work experience. The program placed 30 interns at worksites around the county, with a 100% retention rate – all youth who began the program in the fall are still actively enrolled. While their post high school plans are still in progress, all Montgomery interns have applied to college, all have been accepted to at least one institution, and all have completed a resume.

Anna Hargrave, Executive Director of the Community Foundation in Montgomery County, poses with Urban Alliance Scholars.

Anna Hargrave, Executive Director of the Community Foundation in Montgomery County, poses with Urban Alliance Scholars.

“The Children’s Opportunity Fund is making it possible for Urban Alliance to provide even more young people in Montgomery County with early, meaningful work experience and professional development to help them succeed in adulthood. We’re so grateful to the Greater Washington Community Foundation for their dedication to improving outcomes for underserved youth by helping us to sustain and grow our program here in the county.”
— Eshauna Smith, CEO of Urban Alliance