Partnerships for Education and Economic Opportunity helps underserved and/or isolated communities prepare their young people for the 21st century.

MDC in 2000 partnered with The Hitachi Foundation as its learning partner and to publish the final report for the initiative, titled, Creating Economic Opportunities for Every Young Person. The report offers 16 distinct lessons that, when taken together, provide insight into how some communities succeed in offering genuine opportunities for young people, and how their success can be replicated.

Early Assumptions

The circumstances that led the Foundation to launch the Partnerships for Education and Economic Opportunity initiative in August 1995 persist. As if immutable then and now, children are living in poverty, underserved youth are disproportionately concentrated in schools lacking rigorous preparation and in communities lacking role models and opportunities, schools are challenged to strengthen academic performance, technological advances and globalization are altering the nature of work and the skills needed for success in the new economy.

The Hitachi Foundation noticed in 1995 that school systems were placing greater emphasis on programs linked to local employers offering students direct workplace experience. However, few schools had the means to run effective school-to-career programs on their own. This hasn't changed.

The Foundation knew in 1995 that community organizations could help bridge formal education and work. Yet many organizations touched only a small number of young people, and frequently they operated without the formal support and involvement of schools. This hasn't changed.

These assumptions guided us as they  designed this initiative:

1. Collaborative partnerships involving community members and organizations, schools and employers, could increase the odds of improving academic results and career options for young people.

2. Tri-sector partnerships can succeed though success is not automatic. Partners don't speak the same language and they rarely begin with common aspirations or expectations.

3. It is important to integrate academic and job-training elements in a manner that allows participants to choose among options and prepares them for an evolving employment market.

Portfolio Goals

The Hitachi Foundation Board awarded grants to 12 organizations in 1995 that comprised its Partnerships for Education and Economic Opportunity initiative. Their portfolio goals were:

  • Understand the challenges and opportunities for tri-sector collaboration in widely varying urban and rural communities.
  • Learn how collaborative approaches can change seemingly unyielding educational and employment conditions in underserved communities.
  • Distill lessons from the grass-roots experiences of grantees that can inform youth development policy and the redesign of systems


MDC staff met each of the grantee organizations to distill the learnings and write the report.

Association of Science-Technology Centers, Washington, D.C. and Nationwide

Youth Achievement through Learning, Involvement, Volunteering, and Employment, or YouthALIVE!, is a national museum-based program administered by the Association of Science-Technology Centers. YouthALIVE! in the Workplace helps high school students develop life skills through working and learning at the museum.

Chugachmiut, Anchorage, Alaska

The Employment and Training Division of Chugachmiut ensures access to education and training opportunities for Natives in the Chugach region. This program expands their work with the region's youth by broadening the traditional summer JTPA program; providing career and academic counseling; and youth leadership development and job shadowing opportunities.

Cornerstones Community Partnerships, Santa Fe, N.M.

Young Native American and Hispanic adults rebuild culturally significant historic buildings and community landmarks. GED, community college, and alternative high school instruction accompany their work. Participants gain experience and valuable skills in the construction industry while renewing structures symbolic of their history.

Forward in the Fifth, Berea, Ky.

This grant enabled Forward in the Fifth to pilot two programs: Student Leadership Initiative Program, (SLIP) and Educational Designs that Generate Excellence, (EDGE). SLIP's goal is to reduce the drop out rate by increasing student engagement in their community. EDGE provides entrepreneurship training and enables young people to develop businesses in school.

Girls Incorporated of Alameda County, San Leandro, Calif.

EUREKA! is a four-year program designed to motivate underserved girls to persist in math and science and to consider careers in these fields. Using sports and the opportunity to be on a college campus as "hooks," EUREKA! offers middle school girls a four-week program to develop themselvesand their potential. The program includes school-year activities that build on the summer experience.

Greater Detroit One-to-One, Detroit, Mich.

This pre-school to post high school career development program connects students with career mentors in the community. By exposing youth to multiple adults in different careers, the program helps to raise the sights of the students, inspire them to persevere, and provide career information and insights. Participating elementary, middle, and high schools have a career mentor coordinator.

Greater Washington Urban League, Washington, D.C.

Greater Washington Urban League was funded to develop a prototype program for middle and high school-age youth in Southeast Washington that integrates summer employment; entrepreneurship training; community service; tutoring; and mentoring by senior citizens.

Impact Services Corporation, Philadelphia, Pa.

Community Block Builders linked high school students in technical programs with construction and community revitalization efforts. The program sought to prevent students from dropping out of school and encourage them to pursue college or employment by showing the connection between school-based learning and workplace skills.

MDC Inc., Chapel Hill, N.C.

MDC, expert in economic and workforce development, served as the Foundation's learning partner in the Partnerships initiative. MDC designed, managed, and facilitated three convenings; distilled the promising educational, economic, and community building practices from the initiative; and prepared the final document - Creating Economic Opportunities for Every Young Person - that shares lessons from the initiative.

Philadelphia One to One, Philadelphia, Pa.

One to One is part of a national network that utilizes mentoring as an intervention strategy to meet the needs of at-risk youth. The school-to-career initiative, The Greater Philadelphia Mentoring Partnership, supported by many organizations throughout the city as well as One to One, prepares students for the transition from the classroom to the workplace.

Puente High School Project, Oakland, Calif.

This project is an academic enrichment and mentoring program that serves 1700 students in 18 schools across California. The project has three components: a classroom component in the ninth and tenth grades; a counseling component; and, a mentoring component. Puente also builds teams in schools, linking with the community, and introducing innovative educational practices.

South Bronx Community Coalition, Bronx, N.Y.

The Hunts Point Multi-Media Education/Leadership Initiative creates pathways to computer, multi-media and videography careers. The program targets young people between ages 16 and 21 and includes basic employment skills development, technical skills training, project management and community action.

Southend Community Services, Hartford, Conn.

Our Piece of the Pie helps disadvantaged young people move from being "consumers of services" to being "producers of opportunity," through hands-on business experiences that link what they learn in school to what they can do on the job. Program elements include pre-employment and job readiness training; an introduction to entrepreneurship; work placement coordinated by local college students; and a youth business incubator.


For more information, contact Julie Mooney.