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Achieving the Dream Announces New Building Resiliency in Rural Communities for the Future of Work Initiative

News & Updates
February 16, 2021

Inaugural cohort of seven colleges will focus on increasing equitable student success and aligning postsecondary pathways to sustainable careers

SILVER SPRING, MD — Achieving the Dream today announced the first cohort of colleges in its new Building Resiliency in Rural Communities for the Future of Work initiative, which aims to increase equitable student success by strengthening rural colleges’ capacity to prepare students for careers in today’s economy. The initiative is funded by the Cognizant U.S. Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., The Community Focus Fund at the Chicago Community Foundation,, and Ascendium Education Group.

“Rural community colleges have long served as drivers of their communities’ economic and civic vitality, playing a critical role in ensuring social and economic mobility,” said ATD president and CEO Dr. Karen A. Stout. “As Achieving the Dream works to support our colleges in fostering diverse and equitable campuses, we are mindful of the importance of building a network that reflects the diversity of institutions across our country. This initiative adds to ATD’s experience working with other rural colleges in our network as well as the nation’s tribal colleges and universities, offering new learning opportunities around the role of rural community colleges as workforce and economic development engines.”

Building Resiliency in Rural Communities for the Future of Work will increase rural colleges’ capacity to succeed with whole-college reform efforts, provide students with the workforce skills needed in today and tomorrow’s economy, and connect students with careers in the digital economy that pay family-sustaining wages. In addition, participating institutions’ reform efforts will include providing academic and personal supports and narrowing equity gaps.

The seven colleges that have joined this initial cohort, and the ATD Network, include:

  • Berkshire Community College – Pittsfield, MA
  • Clovis Community College – Clovis, NM
  • Columbia-Greene Community College – Hudson, NY
  • Halifax Community College – Weldon, NC
  • Louisiana State University-Eunice – Eunice, LA
  • Northwest Mississippi Community College – Senatobia, MS
  • Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College – Cumberland, KY

“Achieving the Dream is thrilled to work with these colleges to build a deeper understanding across higher education — and among policy and funding communities for how rural colleges and their partners can promote the economic mobility of students, particularly as part of our equity work,” said Dr. Monica Parrish Trent, ATD’s Vice President for Network Engagement.

Funders of this important initiative are also looking forward to supporting these colleges as they begin their work.

“As we work to ensure equitable access to the education and training necessary to succeed in jobs driving the future, community colleges are key to reaching people in rural areas,” said Kristen Titus, executive director, Cognizant U.S. Foundation. “We are proud to support ATD and this initiative as colleges build the capacity to fulfill a critical role in our country’s economic recovery and in providing everyone with opportunities for economic mobility.”

“Equitable access to skills and real-world work experience is key to connecting students to good jobs, regardless of their ZIP code,” said Monique Baptiste, vice president of global philanthropy, JPMorgan Chase. “As part of JPMorgan Chase’s efforts to advance racial equity and prepare people for the future of work, we’re committed to driving an inclusive economic recovery, including strengthening community college programs and connecting students to the skills needed to succeed in today’s workforce.”

“Rural community colleges are well equipped to provide upskilling opportunities for the rapidly changing workforce in their areas,” said Julie Gehrki, vice president of philanthropy for “Walmart’s investment will enable Achieving the Dream to accelerate their work with these colleges, and we’re thrilled to support their effort.”

“We recognize that rural community colleges are anchors in their communities, providing opportunities for learners, employers and the local economy,” said Amy Kerwin, vice president – education philanthropy at Ascendium Education Group. “We’re pleased to support this cohort as they exchange ideas on how to initiate large-scale institutional change to prepare and increase the number of rural learners from low-income backgrounds that graduate and enter the workforce.”

In January, members of the cohort participated in a Learning Launch Kickoff Institute to onboard to the program and to ATD. This afternoon, the cohort is featured virtually at a Spotlight Session as part of DREAM 2021. Additionally, there will be a Rural Convening this summer, as well as ongoing coaching and capacity building for the colleges through ATD.

Learn more about Building Resiliency in Rural Communities for the Future of Work here.

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