The future which we hold in trust for our own children will be shaped by our fairness to other people’s children. –Marian Write Edelman
The McConnell Foundation’s focus on youth and education began with Carl and Leah McConnell and their personal contributions in those areas. Continuing that commitment, initially the Foundation primarily funded the efforts of area youth groups, high schools, and community colleges. From early grants for sports fields, computers, software, musical instruments, and science labs, to support of the Foundation’s environmental program in Yosemite beginning in 1989, the Foundation has placed importance on youth and the value that education brings to their lives, awarding over $5.7 million from 1989 through 2000.
The Foundation has also understood the value of being flexible in its approach to funding in this area. Starting in 1999, the Foundation began to look at long-term programmatic approaches to improving the lives and education of our young people and formally added education as a focus area for funding. The Foundation focused on addressing all needs surrounding our region’s children and youth in recognition that school performance and readiness are affected by a child’s nutrition, activity, and health, and that our communities have needs and aspirations that may not directly involve education but have an impact on the development and education of children and youth.
Between 2001 and 2015, the Foundation invested more than $22.3 million in our communities through the Children, Youth, and Education program. These grants addressed a broad range of issues and needs in our region, including:
- Studies for small school district unification
- Development of a regional, multi-partner college and career opportunity and outreach program
- Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) K-12 education
- Classical music development for children
- Teen and youth development center in a rural health clinic
- Comprehensive support for increasing post-secondary education opportunities for area youth
- Developmental asset-approached work for area youth
- Support for public university programs in cooperation with local community colleges
- Early childhood literacy development with a book lending program
- Support for regional college-going culture activities
- Scholarships for local students to participate in field studies around the world
- Early childhood STEAM and environmental education
- Support for distance learning opportunities
- Support for a regional kindergarten-readiness assessment
- Development of a multi-faceted approach to combat childhood obesity
- Support for expanding an innovative pre-K to kindergarten transition program
In 2015, the Foundation again realigned its focus on education by looking at investments in student success — from cradle through career. Under this new framework, the Foundation is focusing its Children, Youth and Education efforts on working with community partners in our five-county region, investing in long-term programs to create a student success pipeline from birth through college/career to productive, involved citizens for all of our communities.