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BGCF Grants $500,000 for Accelerating Innovative + Equitable Workforce Pathways

January 18, 2024

When there’s a will, there’s a way; for two organizations in Lexington, their pathway will lead to a significant difference in the lives of many Fayette County youth. With support from the Walton Family Foundation, Blue Grass Community Foundation (BGCF) recently offered a funding opportunity for the development of new programs designed to accelerate innovation and equity in education-to-workforce experiences to better prepare Fayette County students in grades 6-12 for in-demand, high-wage employment opportunities.

Jubilee Jobs and the Black Male Working (BMW) Academy were jointly awarded a grant of $500,000 to be dispersed over two years for their new collaborative initiative, “Innovate to Elevate,” a program designed to bridge the educational and professional performance gap prevalent among young men of color. Through innovative workforce development curriculum, VR technology, career simulations and mentorships from leading voices in the Lexington community, the initiative seeks to empower young African American men for successful careers in a 21st-century workforce.

“Jubilee Jobs is incredibly excited for BGCF’s and Walton Family Foundation’s monumental investment in the ‘Innovate to Elevate’ initiative. With these funds, Jubilee Jobs and BMW Academy are set to launch impactful initiatives like virtual reality career exploration and the Youth Chamber of Commerce trip, to broaden the opportunity horizon and engage Lexington’s youth. We believe that the future of Central Kentucky’s workforce lies in the great potential of our young neighbors, and we are eager to actualize that potential over the next two years.”

Mason King, Jubilee Jobs CEO

“BMW Academy and Jubilee Jobs of Lexington are so excited and are looking forward to working together in making a difference in the lives of the young people in our city. This awesome grant that is being sponsored by the Walton Foundation and Blue Grass Community Foundation is going to set a new course in workforce development in helping young people understand the difference between a job and a career. We hope that through this grant, we will educate, motivate and activate the potential for excellence that lies within every person who participates in this grant!”

Roz Akins, Black Male Working Academy executive director

With a combined vision, the collaborative initiative seeks to redefine the future for African American males in Fayette County. The new program will directly benefit 175 participants in the Black Male Working Academy, as well as an additional 500 Fayette County students of color, regardless of gender, who will have access to some of the more broadly offered resources.

Commerce Lexington is also a project partner and will serve as a bridge, connecting students with Lexington’s business community. They are sponsoring a Youth Chamber of Commerce trip that was birthed through this joint initiative and their involvement ensures the project is rooted in real-world applications and future-forward strategies.

The Request for Proposals (RFP) for BGCF’s Accelerating Innovative + Equitable Workforce Pathways Grant was designed by a community based team that represented a wide cross-section of organizations and professionals working in the education and workforce development sectors. The RFP team also included college and high school students. After receiving thirteen applications eligible for consideration, an independent, intergenerational, community-based Grant Review Committee evaluated the grant proposals and made the final award recommendation.

To hear more from Mason King, listen to his interview on our Do Good Radio Hour podcast, available wherever you stream your podcasts or on our website.