$415,000 award to bolster educational programs in Black Belt region for boys of color

Princeton, NJ, September 25th, 2014 – Today, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in partnership with Public Interest Projects announced a package of new grants to promote opportunity and health for young men of color in rural communities in the South and Southwest.  The Black Belt Community Foundation (BBCF), of Selma, AL, is one of four organizations selected.  The grants of $415,000 each are a compliment to the Foundation’s $11.5 million Forward Promise initiative to improve the health and success of middle school and high school boys and young men of color.

The new grants, know as Forward Promise Catalyst grants, will provide funds to regional philanthropies, each of which will contribute their own matching dollars.  The regional funding partners will, in turn, invest in local partners working directly with young men of color in their region.  Public Interest Projects will provide strategic and technical assistance and help to manage the overall initiative.

“The Forward Promise Catalyst grant allows BBCF to partner with nonprofits throughout the Black Belt region to bolster their already established good and noble work in keeping African-American boys in school and raising the high school graduation rate in the region,” said Felecia Jones, President of the Black Belt Community Foundation.

The RWJF Catalyst Grant program will also enable regions to identify best practices for engaging young men of color in rural communities.

“If we want to build a culture of health for young men of color in America, we cannot ignore rural communities,” said Maisha Simmons, RWJF program officer.  “Young men of color in rural communities face a different set of barriers to opportunity, especially because resources like schools and jobs are not centralized,” she added.  “These grants are specifically designed to help rural communities to build capacity and work together to address those challenges.

The Catalyst grant program adds even more momentum to a growing movement to expand opportunities for young men of color.  Yes, this initiative is also unique in that it represents the nation’s largest private investment in young men of color in rural communities and includes the largest investment in Latino and Native American young men to date.

“We are pleased to partner with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to expand opportunities for boys and young men of color in critical regions of our country.  The Catalyst grants are an innovative, forward thinking approach that goes beyond traditional grant making,” said Berta Colon, President of Public Interest Projects.

This coming October, BBCF officials will hold a press conference to announce the nonprofits it will partner with and the amount of funding each organization will receive to lower the dropout rate and increase the high school graduation rate of boys of color in the Black Belt region.

 About the Black Belt Community Foundation

Established in 2004, the Black Belt Community Foundation has provided over $2.3 million in grants to nonprofits to whose aim is to improve the quality of life throughout Alabama’s 12-county Black Belt region.  BBCF welcomes a collective stream of giving and in turn partners with those interested in having a transformative impact that meets the challenges facing the region and provides opportunities for solutions.  Particular areas of funding focus on projects related to arts, education, community and economic development, and health and wellness.

 About the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has focused on the most pressing health issues facing our country.  We are committed to building a national culture of health that will enable all Americans to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come.

 About Public Interest Projects

Founded in 1983, Public Interest Projects works with donors who share a vision and commitment to creating a society that ensures justice, dignity and opportunity for all people.  Public Interest Projects offers expert advice and an array of professional services to help donors translate their ideas into a strategic giving plan that reflects their values, and is designed to achieve maximum impact.  We partner with individuals and institutions that are inspired to share their ideas to create sustainable social change.  In the last 11 years, Public Interest Projects has invested $174.6 million to strengthen the social justice infrastructure across the country.