Grants, Grants, Grants!

fbo-webinarOn Wednesday, October 05, 2016, The Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships along with Dr. Sylvia Lyles of the Office of Academic Improvement (OAI) held a webinar to discuss Applying for US Department of Education Grants. The webinar was in response to requests from the Hampton Ministers’ Conference and other listening sessions. There were over 400 participants eager to learn more about how to apply for Department of Education grants.

Following an introduction and welcome from Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Dr. Lyles gave an overview of one of OAI’s functions; managing 30 grant programs with a combined total of over 4 billion dollars. Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) are encouraged to apply for grants and to begin the process as early as possible. During her overview of the grant application process, Dr. Lyles focused on the 21st Century Community Learning Center’s (CCLC) Grant. Interested organizations should get in touch with their state 21st CCLC contact and learn more on the CCLC website.

Tiffany Ways, HUB Director of The University Church in Toledo, Ohio and Jen Russo, Program Assistant for the Hope After School Program, in Frederick, Maryland provided were voices from the field. They shared some of their experiences as CLCC grantees. Successful grantees must have effective partnerships.

Key components of effective partnerships:

  • Multifaceted partner engagement
  • Consistent communication
  • Building a relationship of trust
  • Working collaboratively through partner administrator and/or staff transitions
  • Overcoming expectation/ execution shortfalls
  • Celebration of successes

This webinar is just our first step on this journey to increase the participation of FBOs and CBOs in the grant process at the U.S. Department of Education.

Stay tuned!

Family Engagement: Supporting Your Child in School and in Life

Family Engagement Pic1Reid Temple A.M.E. Church (Reid Temple) in conjunction with ED’s White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans (WHIEEAA) and the ED’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP) found a way to get parents and children excited about going back to school. On August 28th, they hosted a Family Engagement Back-to-School Summit filled with information on how to support children in school and in life along with having fun at the church’s Silver Spring, Maryland location.


The focus of the summit was to reach out to families in the community and encourage greater family engagement in their children’s education. We had education representatives from kindergarten through college, including a school Principal and college President, and professional organizations. Most were members of Reid Temple A.M.E. Church congregation, demonstrating the resources available in one’s own community. Free books from the Maryland Book Bank were provided to the children who attended. The Maryland Book Bank, located in Baltimore, MD, is available to all Maryland residents and programs to pick up free books for children.

It was amazing to see the children attending the summit involved in the discussion. They talked about what was important to them when it came to their education. To hear them say they wanted love, support and patience from their teachers and parents was breathtaking. The parents were given the chance to talk about ways they are helping their children in and outside of school. The summit was a listening and learning session for all.

Family Engagement Pic3

Rev. Russell St. Bernard “Rev. Russ” of Reid Temple organized the summit with a goal in mind. “Our goal for the Family Engagement Summit is to empower students, parents, and administrators alike to make this school year the best one yet! By providing experts in the field, free resources, as well as encouraging dialog amongst peer-groups (adults and students), we expect for all those who attend the summit to leave with practical tools that they will be able to use immediately in the life of their student.”

Family Engagement Pic2Rev. Russell St. Bernard “Rev. Russ” and members of Reid Temple worked with David Johns, Director of the WHIEEAA, Frances Frost, Family Ambassador Fellow of the Campagna Center and Angel Rush of the CFBNP to create such a powerful and meaningful summit. We are looking to plan additional educational forums with Reid Temple and hopefully other churches in the area in order to reach families and communities that are less represented in school engagement.

By Angel Rush, Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Frances M. Frost, Family Ambassador Fellow, The Campagna Center









Innovative Learning in the Heart of Ohio

Photo of McVey Learning Center

The four networks listed right as students walk into the school.

“The ILC has provided students authentic learning opportunities by providing a space for exploring their interests and passions.  The real key to success has been the amount of responsibility and ownership students are taking over their learning, showing that students will push their own limits when given the challenge of freedom to choose.  Working with students to personalize their education prepares them to be Ready for Tomorrow.”–Brent Wise, Director of Innovation

Walking in the McVey Innovative Learning Center (ILC), nestled in the Hilliard City School District of Ohio, we encountered students working independently in various work spaces. Their teacher walked around the building checking in on students and answering their questions. We immediately sensed an energy and interest in each student as they worked!

The ILC is diversifying opportunities to meet students’ needs through four networks: College Jump Start, Imagination, Personal Success, and Young Professionals. These networks offer courses that allow all students from grades 7-12 to come together in a centralized location and share an experience that may not be possible in their home schools. The networks are created through commitment from school leadership, local organizations, and partnerships with institutions of higher education. Students from all three of the district’s high schools and middle schools are shuttled to and from the ILC every 90 minutes to participate in classes in one of the four networks. The networks include:

  • College Jump Start: The College Jump Start Network is a partnership between Hilliard City Schools and Columbus State Community College. Students receive 32 hours of college credit during their high school years and an estimated savings of $13,000. This particular network is designed for the student who wants to experience higher education during their high school career.
  • Imagination: This network is designed for the student who wants to creatively explore learning through the lens of the humanities and discover unique ways to engage their imagination. The individualized experience offered by this network features advanced levels of the arts, language, and other forms of expression. During our visit, we toured the recording studio offered through Capital University, a local institution of higher education, and saw a green room in the studio where students practice media development.
  • Personal Success: This network is geared toward the student who wants to experience school in a very personalized way. Students trade the traditional bricks and mortar classroom for an online experience, small group learning, or one-to-one learning sessions. Additionally, they benefit from a personal learning plan that’s created for them, no matter the goal. While we were there, Superintendent John Marschhausen spoke about how the district never expels a student without offering the opportunity for students to continue their coursework through this network.
  • Young Professionals: This network is designed for the student who wants to experience school through authentic learning experiences outside the classroom, all while becoming a young professional. Whether a student is active in a career mentorship role or teacher or entrepreneur academies, this network is built for them. The Young Professionals network has a partnership with the local career/technical school in the fields of medical, business, and teacher academies. Additionally, the school district has written open curriculum and textbooks for iPads, allowing for constant updates as the world changes.

For more information, visit the Hilliard City School website:

They All Have My Last Name

“These children have my last name. If there is something my daughters should have—all children should have it.”-Co-founder and Board President of the Hilltop Preschool

While on a visit to Columbus, Ohio, Center Director Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell stopped in the Hilltop Preschool, a non-profit organization located in Hilltop Lutheran Church that offers free preschool to residents of the Columbus west side area. It just happened to be picture day, and the children were dressing up in little graduation caps and gowns in anticipation of their upcoming graduation!

The preschool is funded through non-profit donations and thrives on several partnerships, including one with The Ohio State University (OSU) Speech-Language Clinic. This is a successful example of how institutions of higher education can effectively partner with local schools to create positive change.

Center Director Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell reads with young students.

Center Director Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell reads with young students.

All of the children attending the school come from families who are below 125% of the poverty level and face daunting realities:

  • 61% of the children have been identified with developmental delays;
  • 40% live with a parent with a known substance abuse problem;
  • 27% have a parent who has been incarcerated;
  • 20% are learning English as a second language.

In October of 2014, 67% of the children were assessed as falling “below average” on the National Center for Learning Disabilities’ GET READY TO READ! screening tool. Something had to be done to address such stark realities.

Staff at the Hilltop Preschool began to communicate with the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic at the Ohio State University to develop a unique partnership aimed at raising students’ literacy-based skills in the classroom through workshops with students, teachers, and staff. For the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, this collaboration presented an opportunity for staff to go into the community and set the bar high as the first clinic to be on-site leading a pre-K early literacy intervention program. For the Hilltop Preschool students, the new partnership paved the way for them to participate in lessons specifically designed to strengthen their early foundations in language and literacy by building skills in four key areas: vocabulary, narrative, phonological awareness, and print knowledge. Lesson plans for the intervention sessions had students gathered in reading groups and focused on topics ranging from the blending of sounds and rhyming, to comprehension, sequencing, and vocabulary. As a result of this initiative, OSU affiliates tripled student contact hours.

At the conclusion of the 11-week intervention program, the preschoolers were assessed to determine if their earlier literacy scores had changed. 89% of the students demonstrated higher literacy scores and 67% achieved “average” or “above average” on the GET READY TO READ! screening tool! Not only did the students see positive differences, but the teachers also learned modeling techniques for literacy concepts and the parents benefited by gaining skills to support their young readers through family events, take-home sheets, and parent-teacher conferences. Invigorated by this success and the community need, OSU continues this partnership today and the Speech-Language-Hearing-Clinic is now building a library at the school to continue to advance literacy skills.

Further background information and source: 

Creating Faith-Based Partnerships that Work: White House and COGIC Partner to Help Faith and Community Organizations Build Their Capacity

COGIC Blog - Photo 1As part of the 108th Holy Convocation of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships partnered with COGIC Urban Initiatives to present a panel discussion on opportunities for partnerships between faith-based and community organization and Federal agencies.  Entitled “Faith-Based Partnerships that Work,” the discussion highlighted the unique role of the Federal Centers for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP). Located inside many Federal agencies, these Centers serve as a resource for secular and faith-based non-profit organizations seeking to partner with Federal agencies to address the needs of their local communities.

Led by the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education (ED CFBNP), the COGIC workshop included staff representing several Partnership Centers along with pastors and staff from COGIC-affiliated organizations and other community-based organizations that had partnered with Centers in the past. These representatives described their experiences partnering across issue areas, including education, housing, health and human services, and veterans issues, among others.  For example, Dr. Gwendolyn Diggs, Assistant Superintendent Educational Operations for the Ferguson-Florissant School District, commented on how a partnership with the ED CFBNP has resulted in the 1) increased collaboration between the School District and community partners and 2) the strengthening of various programs that benefit the School District’s students.  Paula Hearn, Executive Vice President of COGIC Urban Initiatives, discussed how COGIC’s Partnerships with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships strengthened their ability to reach hundreds of students throughout the nation with the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program.

After this broader discussion, participants received practical training from staff of the HUD Center on building the capacity of local non-profit organizations to more effectively carry out their mission. This workshop was excerpted from the HUD Center’s Signature “Capacity Building and Grant-Writing Training.” In the training, participants received personal instruction from HUD CFBNP staff on how to secure 501(c) (3) status, strategic planning, creating the organizational structure necessary to secure government funds, and how to become more competitive for Federal grants. Participants also received valuable lessons on best practices in partnering with Federal agencies Attendees felt that the lessons on past partnerships from Federal staff and community partners, combined with the practically-oriented capacity-building workshop, provided new tools and strategies for organizations to pursue their mission.

Organizations interested in partnering with relevant Federal agencies can find complete contact information for all Centers for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the White House website here. Faith and community organization seeking to learn more about the “Capacity-Building Training for Emerging Organizations,” or other partnership or training opportunities, can contact the Department of Education’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at (202) 401-1876 or Centers stand ready to partner with faith-based and community organizations as they pursue their vital mission serving communities nationwide.

By Paula Lincoln, Director of the HUD Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and Joshua Bancroft, Program Specialist for the HUD Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

In Ferguson, Missouri, The Community and Schools are Working Together

Ferguson Blog - Photo 1

On a recent trip to Ferguson, MO, my office colleague, Dr. Ken Bedell, and I had the opportunity to visit with community leaders. The trip supported Secretary Duncan’s promise that the U.S. Department of Education (ED) would not forget this community.  Our recent visits to the city have strengthened relationships and created partnerships that are already making an impact in Ferguson schools.  When the Ferguson-Florissant School District (FFSD) requested assistance regarding its Summer STEM Program, we connected them with Hope Worldwide, an international charity dedicated to delivering sustainable, high-impact, community-based services to distressed communities.  Hope Worldwide helped supply FFSD with robotics kits to replicate the District’s STEM efforts and provide equitable learning to its students.  Additionally, our collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, FFSD, and local community-based organizations for the Summer Meals Program increased the number of students receiving meals.

We also hosted a meeting of community leaders committed to making Ferguson a safe and healthy environment for youth and their families.  It was excFerguson Blog - Photo 2iting to hear about the local efforts of these organizations.  Church groups are supporting the development of small businesses in Ferguson. Ernst and Young has initiated a mentorship program. The Urban League has created an Empowerment Center in Ferguson to better serve the surrounding neighborhoods in North St. Louis County.  Pen or Pencil, a National Alliance on Faith and Justice (NAFJ) service learning program, is mentoring and working to reduce dropouts and prevent crimes. Other federal agencies are providing services to the school, including AmeriCorps Vista, which has placed volunteers within schools, and the National Parks Service, which is working to increase the educational opportunities and capacities of students.

Dr. Joseph Davis, the new Superintendent of FFSD, and Dr. Gwendolyn Diggs, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Operations, shared the FFSD’s vision: to 1) create an elite K-16 S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) school, 2) enhance professional development and educational opportunities for teachers, 3) train parents to become educational professionals in their own households, and 4) strengthen family and community engagement to establish a culture where education is understood as a shared responsibility by all community members.

Our perspectives from Ferguson echo the remarks of Secretary Duncan following his visit to the city:

Education is—and must continue to be—the great equalizer that overcomes differences in background, culture, and privilege. Educational opportunity represents a chance at a better life, and no child should be denied that chance. Where our children lack that opportunity—it’s not just heartbreaking, it is educational malpractice, it is morally bankrupt, and it is self-destructive to our nation’s future. I don’t believe that we are going to solve the challenges in Ferguson and places like it from Washington alone; but, we can be part of the solution if we listen closely to the people living in these communities. Making things better for kids, their families, and their schools will take all of us working together. We can—and we must—get to a better place.

As we continue to listen and work with FFSD, we can ensure that every student has the chance to achieve his or her hopes and dreams.

Ready for Success: My Brother’s Keeper and the 2015 Back-to-School Bus Tour

Image 1 - Bus Tour Map

During the U.S. Department of Education’s Back-to-School Bus Tour, the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships hosted “My Brother’s Keeper” (MBK) Roundtable Discussions in three cities:  Louisville, KY; Indianapolis, IN; and Pittsburgh, PA.  As one of the MBK staff leads in our office, I had the opportunity to facilitate the Louisville discussion with youth from some of the city’s most distressed neighborhoods. The roundtable was held at Minor Daniels Academy, a combined restorative pathways middle and high school in the Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) System. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and JCPS Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens also participated in the conversation.

During the roundtable discussion, students talked about their aspirations, the daily challenges they face, and the structural and systemic obstacles they perceive as part of their environment. What I found to be peculiar about the discussion was how many of the youth believe that success is best achieved by helping themselves. Throughout their lives, the students felt disconnected from the Louisville community as a whole. They did not know that there were members of the community who were actually interested in providing them assistance. When one youth explained that “shoe game” – how an individual’s worth is defined based upon the substance of his or her appearance – serves as one of the most prevalent problems in their communities, another concluded that as poor African Americans, students could not solve these problems alone.  However, knowing that there were other youth in their communities who had more resources, better educational opportunities, and greater communal support, they wondered if the community had any desire to help them in addressing their own needs.

Despite these expressed challenges, the students chose to “accept finite disappointment while still clinging to hope.” When asked if they had the opportunity to speak to President Obama about improving their schools and communities, the students responded with dignity. One student specified she would ask the President to alter the minimum working age while another stated he would like the President to create programs to provide youth a sense of purpose and eliminate crime within their communities.

The voices of the students underline why MBK is vital to communities. During the conversation, these students learned that their community was listening and preparing to support them as they moved toward their life goals. The MBK initiative helps youth understand that “success is not measured by your stumbles, but by your many strides.  If you can conceive it in your minds and believe it in your hearts, you can achieve it with your hands.”

Following my experiences at the roundtable discussion, I feel confident that the work Louisville is accomplishing will answer the needs of its students and continue to epitomize what MBK is all about – helping to ensure high student achievement and success for all youth, despite their circumstances.   If we continue to incorporate the voices of our youth into the efforts of the 200 communities committed to improving the life outcomes of youth through MBK, I have no doubt it will make our nation more competitive globally and a more equitable place to live.

“…We were founded on the idea everybody should have an equal opportunity to succeed. No matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from, you can make it. That’s an essential promise of America. Where you start should not determine where you end up.” – President Barack Obama

Fifth Annual President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge

This blog is cross posted from the White House here

Picture of attendees in Howard University Chapel

One of President Obama’s first acts was to establish the Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Acting on a recommendation by this council,President Obama established the Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge to build bridges of understanding across our differences, especially among rising leaders, and to serve our neighbors. Interfaith service involves people from different religious and non-religious backgrounds tackling community challenges together – for example, Protestants and Catholics, Hindus and Jews, and Muslims and non-believers building a Habitat for Humanity house together. Interfaith service impacts specific community challenges, while building social capital and civility.

We were pleased to kick off the Fifth Annual President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge last week at Howard University. We have been delighted to watch as the President’s Challenge has resonated with leaders in higher education. In some schools, programs were already under way and gathered momentum because of the challenge. Other schools launched new interfaith service programs in response to the challenge. Actions like these have resulted in opportunities for millions of students and the betterment of countless communities.

The challenge has not been restricted to one model of higher education. Instead it has flourished in a variety of settings including large research universities, four-year colleges, tribal colleges, career colleges, and historically black universities. Each institution provides a unique perspective on what it means to have an interfaith commitment to campus.

Prompted by American schools’ embrace of the Campus Challenge, this year we proposed to think about ways in which institutions of higher learning around the world might benefit from sharing ideas, experiences, and practices of interfaith community service. In early 2015, meetings were held in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City with Campus Challenge participants to discuss possibilities for global engagement. One result of these discussions is that educators and students from around the world were invited to attend the Fifth Annual President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge Gathering at Howard University on September 9 -11, 2015. The response was overwhelming, with people coming from 24 countries.

We’d like to thank those who worked so hard to make this initiative successful, including the Department of Education and its Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the U.S. Agency for International Development and its Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives, the Department of State and its Office of Religion and Global Affairs and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the Corporation for National & Community Service. We’d also like to thank the Howard University community for their generosity and hospitality in hosting the gathering this year.

On behalf of the President, I congratulate all of the schools and leaders who participate in the Challenge. We look forward with anticipation as this initiative continues to expand.

By Melissa Rogers, Special Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

U.S. Department of Education Proposes Regulations Extending Religious Liberty Protections to Participants in Federally-funded Programs

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Education (Department) today announced proposed regulations that would provide beneficiaries of programs supported by Department grants with new religious liberty protections while continuing to ensure equal protection of the laws for faith-based and community organizations that receive Federal financial assistance and provide services under Department programs. The proposed regulations formally implement Executive Order 13559, which requires agencies that administer or award Federal financial assistance for social service programs to implement protections for the beneficiaries and prospective beneficiaries of those programs to ensure that they are protected from discrimination on the basis of their own religion or religious beliefs, or based on a refusal to attend or participate in a religious activity.

The proposed regulations set forth changes to current regulations, including:

  • Clarifying that decisions about the awarding of grants and subgrants must be based on merit and must be free from political interference or even the appearance of such interference.
  • Replacing the term “inherently religious activities” in the existing regulations with the term “explicitly religious activities” in order to more closely align with current constitutional standards and clarify the scope of activities covered by the regulations.
  • Defining the terms “direct Federal financial assistance” and “indirect Federal financial assistance” so that faith-based organizations understand that certain religious liberty protections are triggered under the updated regulations only if a faith-based organization receives direct Federal financial assistance.
  • Requiring that, if a beneficiary or prospective beneficiary of a Department program supported by direct Federal financial assistance objects to the religious character of an organization that provides services under the program, the organization must make reasonable efforts to refer that individual to an alternative provider.
  • Requiring that faith-based organizations supported with direct Federal financial assistance from the Department provide beneficiaries with a written notice informing them of a variety of religious liberty protections, including steps that must be taken to refer the beneficiary to an alternative provider, if the beneficiary requests such a provider.

The public will have 60 days from the date the proposal is published in the Federal Register to provide comments on the proposed rule. For additional information and to view the proposed regulations, visit

NPRM Fact sheet

Engaging Families and Communities to Bridge the Word Gap

This post originally appeared on the Too Small to Fail blog and cross-posted from the ED.GOV blog.


Children begin learning from the moment they are born. By seeing, hearing, and exploring the world around them, particularly through close loving relationships with their families and caregivers, babies’ brains rapidly develop. The more enriching experiences they have with those who love and care for them, the more they grow – especially when words are involved. Research has found that providing infants, toddlers, and young children with consistent, language-rich experiences –talking, reading, and singing – greatly benefits their brain development and school readiness.

However, many families lack access to the types of information and resources that can help them make everyday moments into learning opportunities that are rich in language. Researchers have found that some children are exposed to more language-rich environments than others during the early years, which can result in a gap in the quantity and quality of words that children hear and learn. The richness of children’s language environment can impact school success and outcomes later in life. .

That’s why, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education, in partnership with Too Small to Fail, are providing these critical resources to families, caregivers, and early learning providers. Last week, we proudly released  “Talk, Read, Sing Together Every Day”, a free suite of resources that can help enrich children’s early language experiences by providing tips for talking, reading, and singing with young children every day beginning from birth and extending into the early years.

This toolkit is a result of a commitment made at the 2014 White House convening on “bridging the word gap.” The resources include:

Talking matters, and, no matter what language you speak – the more words the better. To make these resources as accessible and inclusive as possible, all tip sheets are available in English and Spanish, and can be downloaded for free.

Talking, reading, and singing are teaching. But more than that, talking, reading, and singing are simple gateways to opportunities for children and their families. They are brain building activities that set the foundation for school readiness and school success. These everyday activities are ones that all families and communities can engage in to ensure that their young children have the best start in life.

When families, caregivers and teachers partner to promote children’s early education, children win.

To read more about these resources, or to download them visit the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services websites or Too Small to Fail.

Libby Doggett is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning at the U.S. Department of Education, Linda Smith is Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development for the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Kara Dukakis is the Director of Too Small to Fail.