Invest in Women in the Washington DC Metro Area

 
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Because of supporters like you, new doors are opening for Beverly S.

Beverly S., a recent graduate of The Women's Foundation's Grantee Partner Academy of Hope, exclaimed, “Getting my high school diploma is the best!” She adds, “It’s so good to take on a challenge and complete it. It (a high school credential) is already opening up new doors of opportunity for me!”

Beverly, like so many adults in Washington, DC, was desperate to get her high school credential and begin to turn her life around.  She was one of the lucky ones.  More than 64,000 adults in the District of Columbia lack a high school credential but the city only serves about 7,000 residents through its locally funded adult education programs and adult charter schools. In recent years, Academy of Hope has had a waiting list of over 200 adults each term with the goal of obtaining their GED or improving their academic skills to obtain a better job or to enter college. According to the U.S. Department of Education, over 30 million adults lack a high school credential in the U.S.  Across the city, adult education providers report long waiting lists for their services. Yet, for the last ten years, national and local funding has continued to decline, with more cuts to come due to sequestration.

The need for adult education services is great. Your commitment to funding The Women's Foundation helps make life-changing programs, like the one Beverly participated in, possible. 

Adult education has been the easy target for cuts as we blame adults for squandering an opportunity as children – one that some would argue, given the life circumstance of many who drop out, never existed. The ramifications of continued funding cuts in adult education have begun to reveal themselves. The release of survey results from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competency (PIAAC) in fall 2012 confirmed what many in adult education already knew: American adults are not doing well in literacy, numeracy or problem solving skills compared to other countries. The impact of low literacy extends beyond the adult with low skills. PIACC findings indicate that, more than any of the 24 nations participating in the survey, a U.S. parent’s literacy and socioeconomic status had the greatest impact on a child’s ability to succeed in school. Because of this, it is not surprising that U.S. results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA,  are also lagging. PISA is designed to test whether high school students can apply what they’ve learned in school to real-life problems.

When dealing with the drop-out crisis, elected officials often cite stopping the pipeline of dropouts as a justification for increased funding in K-12 education. The pipeline, however, begins with the parent. Parents with strong literacy skills can better help their children do homework, study and succeed in school. According to a 2012 Urban Institute report, young adults whose parents have a high school diploma are more likely to complete high school than are those whose parents do not. They are also less likely to live in poverty.

President Jennifer with her mom and daughters
President Jennifer with her mom and daughters

Each year around the holidays I am reminded of all the things for which I am grateful. Among them are the experiences and people that helped shape me. If you have been fortunate enough to achieve any measure of success in life, you have had these as well – the people and places along the journey that nurtured and inspired you.

I am here today because of my mother, Dianna Lockwood. My mom grew up poor in a small town in New Hampshire, on a working farm, the youngest of three sisters. She never had the opportunity to go to college and was determined that my brother and I would. She and my dad created a wonderful life, until it all came crashing down during the recession of the 1980s when both of my parents lost their jobs. My father never quite recovered from that setback and it was my mother who got up each day, worked several jobs, and made sure that my brother and I had what we needed. Her example of strength and resiliency taught me.

I do what I do because of her. I’ve devoted my career to working on behalf of low-income women and their families because I want her to know that the investment she made in me, all of her sacrifices, were not in vain.  And now that I’m a mother, I have a new, more profound understanding of what she did, and I know that as I strive to make a better life for my own daughters, I am paying forward what my mother has given me.

There are more than 200,000 women and girls living in poverty across the Washington metropolitan region, who like my mother and I have a story of hope to step beyond their own experiences and limitations. Sadly, that statistic hasn’t changed significantly in recent years, particularly in light of the recession and what has now become a slow and prolonged recovery for those most in need. As frustrating as these numbers are, and as impatient as we all are for change, we have to remember that most women in our community didn’t suddenly fall into poverty.  And just as it didn’t happen overnight, it won’t be resolved overnight.

And that’s why, now, more than ever, we are grateful for your support.

The challenges our region faces to address poverty are complex. This is the time to stand firm in our commitment, craft a bold vision, and re-double our efforts so that future generations of girls can one day achieve their dreams. 

We must do all that we can to move women and girls from a place of economic vulnerability to security. As I look ahead to our work in the coming year, I need your support to realize our goals.

Our investments in girls will support high school completion, develop self-esteem, encourage positive choices, and empower them as social change agents. Our goals for investing in women are to obtain jobs with family sustaining wages and benefits, support increased financial capability, and provide the foundational skills that allow them to break the cycle of poverty for their children.

Your support makes it possible for us to:

  • Provide financial education, job training, and access to early care and education resources to thousands of low-income women in the region.
  • Invest more resources into ground-breaking two-generation work with girls and their female caregivers to break the cycle of poverty.
  • Leverage the combination of our investments and our influence to have the greatest impact with our powerful voice on behalf of women and girls.

These goals are ambitious. But, I believe that—together—we can achieve them. We are poised and ready to lead a movement that will shape the future of local families, our communities, and this world. Let’s harness our collective strength to, in turn, strengthen others.

There are thousands of women and girls with hopes and dreams that deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential who need us. Your support matters and makes a difference in their lives.

Stand with me. Here. Now. For Her.

With gratitude,

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat

President and CEO

PreAnn on high school graduation day
PreAnn on high school graduation day

Sometimes your gifts to Washington Area Women’s Foundation help a woman discover and travel paths she’s never dreamed of. Step by step she learns new skills, gains confidence, and dares to paint herself into a new vision of the future.

But in the case of PreAnn Walker, your gifts are helping a young woman navigate a path she’s always dreamed of.

By third grade, PreAnn had a crystal clear idea of her future. She was going to Spelman College and she was going to become a doctor.  It has been a dream of hers for so long, that at the ripe old age of 20, she doesn’t even know how the seed was planted.

“I’ve just always known I was going there,” she says with a conviction that’s hard to argue with. After all, against ridiculously high odds, that’s exactly where she is. Enrolled at Spelman, taking Spanish courses this summer, making room for more classes in her major—Psychology—in her final two years.

And, of course, she’s working. Because that’s what she’s always done since she was 15.  KFC, McDonald’s, Safeway, Chick-Fil-A.  Not for pocket money like other girls her age, but for the stuff that keeps body and soul together—underwear, shoes, school supplies, meals. Necessities, not niceties.

Your support has helped hardworking, vulnerable young women like PreAnn realize their dreams.

In high school, PreAnn juggled two jobs while attending school full time, despite a precarious living situation. At age 11 she was removed from the custody of her mother who was suffering from schizophrenia, and became the ward of a twenty-something cousin. By high school, PreAnn was largely taking care of herself. On any given night, she cadged a bed/couch/space on the floor in one of several homes—staying in one place only long enough to not wear out her welcome, then moving on to the next, eventually circling back and starting the cycle again.  

“I carried a big purse,” she says with a laugh, “because I needed to keep a change of clothes in there.  I was never sure where I was going to sleep, so I was always prepared. When I got ready to move to Atlanta, I had to go to five or six different places to pick up my stuff because I had a little here and a little there.”

Always, she kept her eyes on the college prize—shrugging away sacrifices, and relentlessly pursuing every opportunity that got her closer to her goal. That’s where you came in!In her senior year, PreAnn seized the opportunity to participate in two programs that were the final stepping stones on her path to Spelman—Urban Alliance’s internship program and College Success Foundation’s DC Achievers Scholarship Program.  Thanks to generous donors like you, The Women’s Foundation funds both of these organizations whose programs provide tools and resources that change young people’s lives.

Your continued support is the fuel that keeps dreams alive for determined young women!

We got to know PreAnn, and the fierce determination that drives her, in the fall of 2011 when she became our Urban Alliance intern. One of the benefits of being an intern at The Women’s Foundation is you instantly acquire an entire cadre of mentors and cheerleaders. The day PreAnn received her acceptance from Spelman, the entire office celebrated with her, with high-fives, hugs, and not a dry eye in the office. A generous and well-deserved DC Achievers Scholarship cleared the final obstacle for PreAnn to finish the journey she had set for herself almost a dozen years before. We’re not sure she has stopped smiling since!

As many students prepare to head back to school, we know there are many other young women like PreAnn out there –ready to set forth on the path of their dreams with pure determination. At The Women’s Foundation, our goal is that no young woman will be left behind just because she was born in the wrong ZIP code or to parents with insufficient resources. Together, we can provide the tools that give each one a fighting chance.

 

With gratitude,

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat

President

PreAnn heading to class at Spellman
PreAnn heading to class at Spellman

Of all the jobs I’ve held over my career, none have been harder than being a mom. Nothing could have prepared me for the rollercoaster that I ride on a daily basis with my two girls. And during those moments when I’m feeling particularly challenged, I ask my mom for advice. She always demurs, saying, “You’re raising your children in a very different time.” And while she’s right in many ways—technology alone has transformed how parents and children interact—in other ways, very little has changed over time. For many of the 200,000 women and girls living in poverty in our region, the challenges and barriers they face have made poverty multi-generational.

That’s one of the reasons why The Women’s Foundation is investing in a promising and innovative two-generation strategy working with middle school girls and their female caregivers. We are excited to be adding our voice and expertise to the Aspen Institute Ascend Network on two-generation work, and we look forward to sharing our learning with you in the months ahead.

With over 72 percent of mothers with young children participating in our region’s workforce,families are increasingly relying on the wages of women in order to achieve economic security. It’s never been more important that workplace policies reflect the realities of women’s lives. I’m thrilled that the Foundation has been recognized as a Best Place to Work by the Washington Business Journal.  For us, modeling positive policies and ‘walking the walk’ is equally as important as ‘talking the talk’; investing in the talent and strength of our staff has always strengthened us as an organization.

Earlier this month in celebration of Mother’s Day, if you follow us on Facebook, you had an opportunity to meet the women behind the women—the wonderful moms of our staff! We’ve all had a guiding force in our lives, whether it was a mom, friend, neighbor, grandmother, aunt or colleague. She’s the person who picked you up when you were down, told you the truth when no one else would or simply listened when you needed an ear. She ultimately stood with you so you could stand on your own. We hope that you also take a moment to recognize and honor that special woman in your life.

 

With much gratitude,
Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat

Here at The Women’s Foundation, we have hit the ground running and are looking forward to an exciting 2014. With much of a brand new year ahead, I want to share a few of my top priorities:

  1.        Catalyzing Investment:  We will continue to deepen both our impact and reach.  In addition to growing our important Stepping Stones investments supporting low-income women in our region, we are working to catalyze new strategic partnerships in our community that will result in targeted programming and support for middle school girls and their mothers, simultaneously.
  2.        Developing a Policy Agenda:  In partnership with the California Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, and the Chicago Foundation for Women, we are undertaking research to identify the key components of both a local and national women’s economic security agenda that women’s foundations can play a role in elevating.
  3.        Engaging our Stakeholders:  We will continue to find ways to engage you in our work, including providing you with opportunities to lend your voice to our efforts and to deepen your connection with the Foundation and the region.
  4.        Expanding our Resources: We have seen amazing results from our work but must continue to mobilize our community to build the human, social, political and financial capital needed to create the kind of transformation we all believe needs to happen.

We have an opportunity to build the momentum and national messaging generated by The Shriver Report, which emphasizes why we must make investing in low-income women and girls a priority. You -- your presence, voice and support -- are critical to our efforts to transform the lives of women and girls, and the Washington region. I hope that you’ll stand with us in 2014.

Sincerely,
Nicky Goren

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Project Leader

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat

Vice Presdient
Washington, DC United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Invest in Women in the Washington DC Metro Area