Greenlight Fund Atlanta Launches Second Portfolio Organization


ATLANTA, GA – October 11, 2021 – Today, GreenLight Fund Atlanta (GreenLight Atlanta) announced a multi-year investment in The Literacy Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship (LMF), an innovative, multi-generational literacy intervention program. LMF is designed to close the literacy gap that exists within traditionally underserved and marginalized communities. The program works with young men of color, between the ages of 18 to 24 and with a high school diploma or GED-equivalent, providing them with the opportunity to begin their careers in education by serving pre-K students as early literacy tutors for an entire school year.

After a rigorous, year-long selection effort in partnership with GreenLight Atlanta’s Selection Advisory Council, the impact of in-class learning interruption was identified as investment opportunity area. Learning loss, precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with existing educational inequities, requires bold and immediate actions to thwart the widening literacy gap. The Leading Men Fellowship tackles this challenge in three distinct ways: (i) By closing the literacy gap through evidence-based, high-quality tutoring of pre-K students; (ii) By empowering young men of color with financial resources and personal and professional development; and (iii) Diversifying the teacher pipeline by laying the foundation for Black and Brown men to pursue careers as early childhood educators.

Research shows that Black students from low-income communities are “significantly” more likely to attend college when they have been taught by at least one Black teacher (Johns Hopkins University, 2017). This is because students become more confident and approach learning differently when they are being taught by teachers who look like them. Using the SEEDS of Learning methodology, LMF helps to build the confidence of young learners, setting them up for future academic success. The program's data backs this up, showing that 87% of participating pre-K students grew towards kindergarten readiness from Fall to Spring.

According to Dr. Ken Zeff, Executive Director of Learn4Life and GreenLight Selection Advisory Council member, “The Leading Men Fellowship is a national model that has [been] proven to both accelerate learning and improve representation in the classroom. The GreenLight Fund is introducing exactly the type of innovation we need in metro Atlanta to meet this moment for our youngest learners.”

When asked why he was such a fierce advocate for the Leading Men Fellowship, LMF alumnus Kenvin Lacayo said “I didn’t see a teacher who looked like me until high school. Without engaging young men of color such as myself and my colleagues in the fight for the future of our country’s preschoolers, I can promise you that we’ll never achieve the outcomes that we hope for.” Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring agrees that the need is great and supports having LMF in Atlanta Public Schools for the 2022-2023 school year: “Our new partnership with The Literacy Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship perfectly aligns with the APS strategic plan. Their innovative, multi-generational approach centers on equity and addresses two critical opportunities: accelerating literacy growth for our youngest learners while intentionally working to diversify our teacher pipeline, as men of color are severely underrepresented.”

“This is a special time in the evolution of The Literacy Lab as we clarify, solidify and expand our role in the educational equity landscape,” said Heather Jenkins, CEO of The Literacy Lab. “We will continue to build a collaborative environment in which student-centeredness, equitable practices, common purpose and community thrive. We are thrilled to have the opportunity, through our transformative Leading Men Fellowship, to partner with students, schools, communities and other stakeholders in Atlanta to work for greater educational, racial and economic equity.”

According to Joli Cooper, GreenLight Atlanta Executive Director, “With every challenge lies opportunity and Leading Men Fellows provides that opportunity. Through our community-driven process, we identified the need and as a result, our talented young men of color will now have the opportunity for meaningful career exploration in the field of early education and our pre-K scholars will have the opportunity for literacy coaching like they’ve never had before!” GreenLight Atlanta’s multi-year financial and on-the-ground support along with strong local partnerships positions The Literacy Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship to achieve impact in the short and long term. Additional financial investments from public and private partnerships including federal dollars are needed, and will ensure program sustainability for years to come.

Recruitment for the inaugural class of 20 Leading Men Fellows in Atlanta begins in January 2022. Fellows will begin tutoring in in Atlanta Public Schools pre-K classrooms in the Fall of 2022.

About The Literacy Lab

The Literacy Lab is an education non-profit whose mission is to provide students who are historically and systemically marginalized with individualized reading instruction to increase literacy skills, leading to greater success in school and increased opportunities in life. The Literacy Lab accomplishes this by empowering members of the community to serve as full-time literacy tutors in elementary and early childhood classrooms to close the literacy achievement gap and build the teacher pipeline. The Leading Men Fellowship program currently operates in Washington, DC; Milwaukee, WI; Central Virginia; and Baltimore, MD.

For more information, please visit theliteracylab.org

About GreenLight Fund

The GreenLight Fund helps open opportunities for children, youth and families experiencing poverty by engaging deeply with the community and running a consistent annual process to: elevate priority issues not yet being addressed; invest in innovative, proven programs that have a significant, measurable social impact; and galvanize local support to accelerate the selected program’s launch and ensure growth and long-term viability. Started in Boston in 2004, the nonprofit venture philanthropy organization launched GreenLight Atlanta in 2019. Additionally, earlier this year GreenLight Atlanta announced their first portfolio organization, Center for Employment Opportunities. GreenLight cities include Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Kansas City, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Twin Cities.

For more information, please visit greenlightfund.org

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