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SAN FRANCISCO – Lumina Foundation today announced the winners of its 2019 Education Innovation Prize challenge, a national competition that encourages development of products and services that can make learning after high school available to more Americans. Miami Dade College’s Accelerated Credentials Training and Skills (MDC ACTS) program, won $25,000 for the Judges’ Choice Award, while Knack, a platform that facilitates peer-to-peer counseling and student support services, received $25,000 for the Audience Choice Award. A third organization, the Amarillo Area Foundation’s No Limits No Excuses program, received $5,000 as the runner-up.
The foundation challenged entrants in the prize competition to advance solutions that will help more adults develop the knowledge and skills they will need to be prepared for the future of work in a rapidly changing economy. Finalists pitched their ideas in front of an audience of investors, foundation partners, and business leaders at the Lumina Investing in Future Talent and Education (LIFTed) gathering in San Francisco. Judges were Jared Chung, founder of CareerVillage; Isabelle Hau, investment partner of Omidyar Network; and Maia Sharpley, a partner at Learn Capital.
“The prize challenge is one way we’re attracting new ideas, encouraging collaboration, and sparking creativity in addressing the challenge of not enough adults with the skills and credentials they need,” said Elizabeth Garlow, an investment officer with Lumina Impact Ventures. “Each year, this competition has allowed us to expand our network and accelerate progress by helping entrepreneurs who are already developing innovative solutions scale their ideas to reach and serve more learners.”
MDC ACTS, winner of the Judges’ Choice Award, will develop, implement, and manage accelerated training programs for adult learners in high-growth, high-wage industries in Miami-Dade County. Through its earn-and-learn model, MDC ACTS is working with employers to develop and offer 12-week programs, providing training space and related technical instruction throughout the process. Businesses provide access to on-the-job training, hourly pay for trainees, mini-internships, guaranteed job interviews, and job opportunities. Successful graduates earn “stackable” credentials that set the stage for further learning and improved job opportunities.
“For some, the decision about whether to stay in school can come down to a choice between putting food on the table or going to class. We hope that with our earn-and-learn model, fewer people will to have to make that choice,” said Lenore Rodicio, executive vice president and provost of Miami Dade College. “It allows students to remain in school while earning a wage, raise their skills in high-demand local industries, and have an entry point to a higher education pathway.”
Audience Choice Award-winner Knack leverages partnerships with colleges and universities to build a network of students who serve as tutors, mentors, coaches, and advisors. Through these partnerships, Knack aims to transform academic and student support services through high-impact, peer-to-peer interactions. Knack’s model creates opportunities for peer mentors to build leadership and coaching skills that will be valuable in today’s workplace and for students receiving support to benefit from their peers’ subject-matter expertise. Knack has a track record of success: In 2016 it won the grand prize in the University of Florida’s Big Idea Gator Business Plan Competition.
“When you get to college, you’re kind of left on your own to figure it out, so students with different learning styles or who lack access to the resources they need miss out on opportunities,” said Samyr Qureshi, co-founder and CEO of Knack. “Through our model, we’re trying to change that dynamic. By pairing students with peer mentors, tutors, and coaches, we not only serve the learner on the receiving end, but also on the other side—the peer leader who’s reinforcing their subject-matter knowledge and developing soft skills.”
Runner-up No Limits No Excuses, a program of the Amarillo Area Foundation, is a local network of partners striving to create a culture of learning success. This approach aims to help residents achieve security in all aspects of life. Through a mobile app in development, No Limits No Excuses intends to connect learners with employers, advisors, counselors, volunteer mentors, and other resources they need to succeed, with a goal of ensuring that all residents have pathways to credentials of value.
“We want everyone to earn a living wage and be self-sufficient, but to get there many need a step-by-step plan and community support,” said Leeann Kossey Overstreet, No Limits No Excuses program officer at Amarillo Area Foundation. “Our app creates that plan and connects learners with employers, advisors, counselors, volunteer mentors, and other education resources to help them succeed.”
Lumina Impact Ventures awarded the prizes, totaling $55,000. The foundation, through its social impact investing arm, financially supports promising products and services that aim to improve educational attainment among people of color, students from low-income families, and others who are poorly served by higher learning. The foundation’s objective is to convert entrepreneurial solutions into opportunities to accelerate progress toward connecting more people with job-furthering skills and learning.
To learn more, visit www.luminafoundation.org/lumina-impact-ventures.
About Lumina Foundation: Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. Lumina envisions a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. The Foundation’s goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.
Director of Media Strategy, Lumina Foundation