The NBA Foundation awards 40 new and renewed grants in latest grant round to help drive economic opportunity and empowerment in the Black community.
(Black PR Wire) Since its inception in August 2020, the NBA Foundation’s main goal has been clear: drive economic opportunity for Black youth.
But this is more than just a mission statement. For the past three years the foundation has stayed true to its principles by partnering with organizations that uplift Black youth to catalyze their dreams and reach their full potential.
“The summer of 2020 was a tumultuous time and I think the NBA asked itself, ‘What role are we to play in this moment of history?’” said Greg Taylor, NBA Foundation Executive Director. “The communities we care about looked at the league for leadership and it was an opportunity to step forward and continue our legacy as social justice and civil rights leaders, and out of that was the creation of the NBA Foundation.”
For its third anniversary, the foundation has awarded 40 new and renewed grants, totaling $13.5 million in its latest grant round. The grantees will receive funding and resources to help boost initiatives focused on addressing education, income and employment disparities in underserved communities.
One of the 23 renewed grantees that has benefited mightily from its partnership with the foundation is MobilizeGreen, an organization that focuses on creating employment opportunities for young, diverse people pursuing careers in green STEM. MobilizeGreen has used the foundation’s funding to bolster its Virtual Intern program.
“During the pandemic, we were seeing that companies and agencies were dropping their internship programs and it was disproportionately impacting Black kids,” said Leah Allen, Founder and CEO of MobilizeGreen. “There’s such an experience gap. It almost takes experience to get experience, so we wanted to close that gap and connect Black kids to opportunities.”
Allen pivoted from her career in law and government relations to found MobilizeGreen in 2013 with the goal of diversifying employee pipelines to include young people of color.
“I went to work and started thinking about how to make sure kids of color had access to the opportunities I was seeing come down the pipe,” Allen said. “I knew I could actually bring those opportunities to them, so I did.”
MobilizeGreen is one of many organizations that have hit impressive benchmarks with the help of the foundation’s resources. However, for some renewed grantees such as StreetCode Academy, the best could be yet to come.
StreetCode is an organization that focuses on connecting communities of color to innovation opportunities in tech. StreetCode CEO, Olatunde Sobomehin, voiced his excitement when explaining how the foundation’s resources will help support StreetCode’s Who’s Next Tour — a tech-based tour that will give communities of color across 10 cities the opportunity to learn about and create with virtual reality, generative artificial intelligence and augmented reality.
“The NBA has allowed us to partner with other teams as we travel around,” Sobomehin said. “The money is great, but you couldn’t do that if you’re not the NBA, and that’s allowing us to expand more rapidly and more effectively.”
StreetCode’s partnership with NBA teams will add credibility to the Who’s Next Tour and its offerings, and it aligns with Sobomehin’s central goal of connecting young people of color with technology.
“We’re interested in culture meeting technology and in our community the NBA is synonymous with culture,” Sobomehin said. “It drives the conversation. It drives our interests. It drives culture. So, to say that we can partner with the NBA and also bring in technology, that’s a dream.”
The foundation’s grantees all share the same overarching goal of fostering employment opportunities. The National Education Equity Lab works towards achieving this by partnering with top colleges and universities to deliver college credit-bearing courses and support to historically marginalized high school students at scale — at no cost to students.
“We came up with the idea to connect top universities with school districts in historically underserved communities to help close the education opportunity gap,” said Vivian Zelter, Ed Equity Lab Director of Strategic Partnerships. “Our mantra is: talent is evenly distributed but opportunity is not, and with the NBA Foundation funding we aim to change that.”
Since starting up in 2019, Ed Equity Lab has made huge strides in propelling high school students for success at scale, and the results prove it: 15,000 students served to date with more than 80% college course pass rates and transferable credits earned. This means less college debt, more scholarship money and opportunities for success as students are empowered with confidence about college and also receive the credentials to prove their talents.
“Our early results are exciting — scholars are reaching higher and succeeding. Students that are in the Ed Equity Lab network are going to four-year universities and out of state at higher rates than similarly situated students,” said Leslie Cornfeld, the founder and CEO of Ed Equity Lab.
“That’s our goal — to help students succeed at the best matched college for them as a lever for economic mobility.”
For both Cornfeld and Zelter, the idea of partnering with the NBA Foundation was a no-brainer as they are closely aligned on many efforts, including providing exposure to HBCUs.
The foundation administers the NBA HBCU Fellowship Program, which welcomed its 2023 class in May. Ed Equity Lab partners with several prominent HBCUs including Howard, Spelman and Morehouse to offer powerful college course experiences to high school students.
“When we surveyed scholars, we learned that over 50% of students surveyed did not know what an HBCU was, and through our model that’s changing rapidly,” said Zelter. “The NBA grant is going to enable us to expose scholars across the country to the power of HBCUs.”
As the NBA Foundation turns the page to year three, Taylor expressed eagerness to continue supporting organizations that need their resources along with setting new goals.
“We certainly want to move towards formalizing partnerships with companies that can actually hire the young people who’ve spent time in school or in these nonprofits developing their skills,” Taylor said. “I think that’s what the years going forward will be about and we want to put that in place this year.”
Below is a full list of the new and renewed grant recipients:
30,000 Feet, The Blueprint Foundation, Capital Youth Empowerment Program, The Center for Employment Opportunities, Destination Tomorrow, Focus: HOPE, Future Chefs d/b/a Third Sector New England, Justice Fund Toronto, Juxtaposition Arts, LINK Unlimited Scholars, LITE Memphis, MIT Solve, Overtown Youth Center, Inc., Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program, SIS Circles, We Got Us Now, YBLA – Young Black Leadership Alliance
America on Tech, Black Girls CODE, Boys Town Louisiana, Children’s Services of Roxbury, CMB Visions Unlimited, Inc., Elevate Orlando, exalt Youth, Get Lit – Words Ignite, Ghetto Film School, InsideOut – Literary Arts, The Knowledge House, Marcus Graham Project, MobilizeGreen, National Education Equity Lab, Inc., New England Community Services, Old Skool Cafe, Partnership for Southern Equity, Public Allies, StreetCode Academy, Tech Sassy Girlz, Youth Empowerment Project, Youth Guidance, Youthprise