Helping fragile communities

April 25, 2018

In November 2016, Koch Industries and the Charles Koch Foundation announced a $25.6 million commitment to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund — one of the largest-ever gifts to that organization. Since then, TMCF has used Koch’s funding for several important initiatives, including the establishment of the Center for Advancing Opportunity. CAO’s mission is to move people living in fragile communities from promise to prosperity. The organization believes the best way to advance opportunity begins with listening to those who face barriers to true fulfillment. That’s why CAO recently worked with Gallup to design a poll that captures the real sentiments of at-risk communities regarding well-being, crime, education and social barriers to opportunity. After identifying a community’s issues and opportunities, CAO then works to equip people with the appropriate intellectual and financial resources.

Dr. Craig Richardson, director of the Center for the Study of Economic Mobility, is committed to a multi-disciplinary approach. “We’re asking professors in psychology, business, education, economics and information systems to help us understand the barriers to upward mobility,” Richardson said. “We need to know, what’s keeping people back? Where are the broken rungs on the ladder?” Graduate and undergraduate students whose TMCF scholarships are funded by Koch are helping come up with the answers — and the solutions. One of the solutions that most excites Dr. Richardson is Two Generations, an organization created by Rasheeda Shankle.

Not long ago, Rasheeda Shankle was a single mom, working for minimum wage and dreaming of earning a college degree. Today, she is not only a college graduate planning on an MBA, she is the CEO of a non-profit organization committed to helping single moms and their daughters break the cycle of poverty.

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Rasheeda Shankle  CEO, Two Generations

Shankle launched Two Generations in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in March. It targets single moms making less than $15,000 a year who have no college degree and are raising daughters in middle or high school who want to attend college. Mothers and daughters accepted into Two Generations are required to attend weekend or evening classes on financial planning, budgeting and how to improve their credit scores. They are also coached on healthy lifestyles and how to prepare for college. Mothers are required to save $10 to $25 each month, which the program matches. For many, it is the first time they have ever had savings of any kind — or their own bank account.

“What’s great about this program,” said Dr. Richardson, “is that it provides a proven template for others to use in addressing a widespread problem. “We’re going to share this example with as many organizations as possible.”