Castleton University and the Community College of Vermont recently were awarded grants from the J. Warren & Lois McClure Foundation aimed at creating more equitable access to higher education and career training statewide.

The foundation gave out a total of $350,000 in competitive funds this year. Of that, $220,000 went to various programs at CCV, and a $25,000 grant went to a new early education and special education program at Castleton.

Senior philanthropic adviser Carolyn Weir said the McClure Foundation aims to help Vermont move toward a future in which no promising job goes unfilled for lack of a qualified candidate.

“We know that for that vision to be realized, 70% of working-age Vermonters have to have a degree or a credential of value to meet the needs of employers,” she said. “And we know that currently only about 50% of Vermonters have those degrees or credentials.”

To help make up the difference, Weir said the foundation makes those high-paying jobs more visible, affordable and accessible.

The foundation has partnered with CCV to help complete its mission, according to Aimee Stephenson, CCV director of resource development.

“Philanthropic support from the McClure Foundation is significant and important in providing extra support and additional programming that would otherwise not be possible,” Stephenson said.

This year, the McClure Foundation will offer CCV continued funding for several existing programs, including one that support veterans, active service members and their families, as well as another that brings career training and college classes to individuals at the Northern State Correctional Facility.

The McClure Foundation will grant $90,000 to the CCV’s Secondary Education Continuum, which combines several components to help increase college enrollment in the state.

Natalie Searle, director of secondary education initiatives at CCV, said her program increases access to post-secondary education starting in middle school.

Searle’s program offers Middle School Access Days, which helps introduce students to different options for their future.

Searle said she hopes to reach first-generation students, low-income students or students with disabilities.

“Those students often write themselves off, when in fact they could be really successful in college,” she said. “So that’s a population we work with early on.” In addition to programs at CCV, the foundation is helping to launch a new early childhood education and special education program at Castleton University.

“We are extremely excited to be partnering with McClure on this project,” said Matthew Moriarty, the university’s director of grants. “This is a major initiative for us starting this year, addressing a major national need for early childhood educators.”

The new academic program will partner with a child care facility that Moriarty said will open next summer. The facility will be professionally staffed, open to the public and will allow Castleton students to get practice in the field as they complete their degrees.

“We are going to be addressing two significant shortages: the need for early child care slots and the need for early childhood educators,” Moriarty said.

While the program has been in the works for a while, Moriarty said this grant will help them promote the program.

“We are extremely happy to be partnering with the McClure Foundation on this because they do so much around the state of Vermont in education and creating educational pathways, especially with first generation students and those who have a hard time accessing education,” he said. “For us, it’s an important partnership.”

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