By Michael Norton, Ph.D., Chief Policy Analyst at Reinvestment Fund Public libraries and museums are deeply embedded in their communities in ways that enrich the wellbeing of local residents. Through their core services, programming, and partnerships with other organizations, they catalyze broader networks of support that meet a diverse range of needs for individuals, organizations, and their broader communities. Reinvestment Fund recently completed a national study of the nation’s museums and public libraries to explore the different ways these institutions promote the quality of life in their communities. As a mission-driven financial institution, Reinvestment Fund has an unwavering commitment to make communities work for all people. In addition to bringing financial tools to partnerships to ensure that everyone has access to essential opportunities, we also offer data and research tools to help us and our partners understand markets, communities, and impediments to opportunity. This national study was done in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, with the Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP) at University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice and HR&A Advisors. The multi-year, multi-market study found the presence and usage of public libraries and museums to be positively associated with multiple dimensions of social wellbeing by promoting public health, supporting education, facilitating connections between individuals and organizations, and enhancing the cultural environment of their communities. Aarti Sharma, Executive Director of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library Foundation sees libraries as integral to healthy and thriving communities. “When libraries are fully utilized as critical convening and programming hubs, we succeed together,” shares Sharma. “Programming at libraries, like One Book, One Read in Fulton County, bring people together across lines of difference to engage in critical conversation and build community.” Reinvestment Fund’s study team also visited 24 museums and libraries across the country. These visits confirmed that the ways these institutions engage with their patrons and organizational partners is heavily informed by the local context—the type of community they serve (urban, suburban, or rural), the type and size of their institution, and the needs of local residents and communities. Museums and libraries adapt to local contexts and customize their services to advance their institutional missions and goals while being responsive to changing conditions and observed needs in their communities. One of our site visits was the Woodlands Garden in Decatur, a nonprofit public garden. Woodlands Gardens provides an urban refuge and promotes wellbeing as a resource for others to use, rather than as an active agent of change. This approach is grounded in the Gardens’ commitment to accessibility as welcoming to populations that can benefit from their resources. “Dr. and Mrs. Morse’s gift of Woodlands Garden in 2002 was built on making the urban sanctuary at Scott Blvd and Clairemont Ave in Decatur accessible to the community,” shares Kate McAlpin, Executive Director of the Garden. Decatur residents with developmental disabilities are one group that Woodlands Gardens have focused on serving. The Garden is currently partnering with an area chapter of a non-profit, L’Arche Atlanta, that provides semi-autonomous housing to individuals with disabilities. As part of their recent expansion, the Garden acquired an eight-bedroom home on an adjacent parcel of land. The Garden sold the property to L’Arche, which is working to renovate the property. The house will be owned and managed by L’Arche, allowing residents permanent and easy access to Woodlands Garden. Individuals with developmental disabilities already participate in many of the Garden’s annual activities, and those with sensory sensitivities find the Garden to be a therapeutic environment. “We look forward to growing our partnership with new neighbor, L’Arche Atlanta, by collaborating on volunteer projects, sharing educational opportunities, and continuing to promote accessibility for all audiences at Woodlands as inspired by the Morse family,” said McAlpin. The Garden’s largest event of the year, “Fairies in the Garden,” also represents its focus on urban education and engagement with the intent of contributing to social wellbeing. The event is held for children and families in the community in partnership with the Skyland Trails clinic, a local residential psychiatric clinic and non-profit mental health treatment organization. For the last nine years, the clinic’s art therapy patients have worked together to create fairy doors and fairy homes that are installed throughout the Garden. Children and families come to Woodland Garden to find the fairy homes and participate in arts and crafts, managed by volunteers from the local YMCA. The event is free and extremely popular with the local community: in the past year, the event attracted 750 individuals in a two-and-a-half-hour period. This event exemplifies the ways in which the Garden seeks to contribute to social wellbeing: the event provides a sanctuary for children and families that come annually to the event. For campers at the local YMCA, the event is an educational experience and an opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills through planning and staffing arts and craft activities. For the participants in Skyland Trail’s therapy programs, the event is an opportunity for patients in the organization’s expressive therapies program to share their work and give back to their community. The missions and programs of cultural institutions across the country afford an opportunity for communities to reflect their collective best selves. The findings from this study suggest that local libraries and museums are actively involved in animating social and institutional connections that catalyze the creativity, ingenuity, and empathy within their communities in ways that promote personal and social wellbeing. Working with community partners, they are able to address community needs more effectively than they could alone. As critical civic institutions that engage communities and advance inclusion, they are uniquely aligned with Reinvestment Fund’s own work to build strong, healthy and equitable communities. The services these institutions provide, the collections they maintain, and the interactions that happen (intentionally and fortuitously) through their spaces and through their community networks are crucial threads in the broader social and institutional fabric of places that promote human flourishing. Learn more about our study Understanding the Social Wellbeing Impacts of the Nation’s Libraries and […]
Project Kicks Off Systemwide Rail Station Rehabilitation Program MARTA hosted a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of renovations at Indian Creek rail station and kick off the systemwide Rail Station Rehabilitation Program. The ceremony was led by MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker and MARTA Board of Directors Chair and DeKalb County representative Rita Scott. Distinguished guests and speakers included Congressman Hank Johnson, DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond, and DeKalb County Commissioner Steve Bradshaw. DeKalb County MARTA Board Members, members of CEO Parker’s leadership team, DeKalb County Commissioners, and representatives from the design and construction firms handling the renovations were also in attendance. Indian Creek rail station is the easternmost terminus of the Blue Line and plays an important role in connecting customers east of DeKalb County to the greater MARTA system, averaging close to 10,000 riders a week. Improvements include a new lighted walkway from the parking to lot into the station, replacing all signage and damaged concrete, new public restrooms, tile cladding on the concourse level, and new landscaping. The $10 million project will be designed by Axis Infrastructure and constructed by Carroll Daniel Construction Company and C.D. Moody Construction Company and is funded through the penny sales tax in DeKalb County. The Indian Creek projects launches MARTA’s Rail Station Rehabilitation Program, a multi-year $300 million investment in improving the customer experience through projects that range from the aesthetic to the transformative. In addition to enhancing customer safety with new lighting and wayfinding, projects will use materials that are easier to maintain, making stations cleaner and safer for riders. All 38 rail stations are part of the Program, with Indian Creek kicking things off, and College Park, Five Points, Lenox, Arts Center, H.E. Holmes, and Airport stations included in the first phase. This is sponsored content.
“This year I’m thankful for my kids because they are healthy and also because we as a family have a roof over our heads. This year has been very difficult because of COVID but we have overcome a lot as a family,” shared Aileenayala, a Families First CHISPA client at a recent Thanksgiving event. The Families First Adopt-A-Family, in partnership this year with Macy’s, helps families like Aileenayala’s enjoy the holiday season with their families. Aileenayala is part of the Families First CHISPA program which is one of the ways Families First supports our clients at various points across the continuum of care including adoption, foster care, parenting, mental and behavioral health, supportive housing, and healthy starts for kids. In Spanish, “CHISPA” means “spark.” CHISPA, specifically for the Spanish-speaking community in Gwinnett County, focuses on early childhood education with bilingual parent educators who visit parents and children ages 0 – 5 years old in their homes and provide parent leadership training as well as school transition and literacy activities. Each of our CHISPA families received a Thanksgiving meal to enjoy through the Adopt-A-Family Thanksgiving program. “Macy’s is committed to giving back and being there for the community in times of need. This unprecedented time has brought challenges to many families in the communities Macy’s colleagues live and work,” said Kelli Lewis, Director, Corporate Giving of Macy’s. “From a holiday meal to gifts under the tree, partnering with Families First gives us the chance to connect with our neighbors and help them enjoy the holiday season.” For more than 132 years, Families First has served the local community and beyond, and today is focused on building resilient families and communities. Our two-generation approach is grounded in strengthening resilience so that families can better cope with the stresses of everyday life and have the tools and resources to pick themselves back up when life’s challenges come their way. The holidays can be especially hard for many of the families we serve, and our Adopt-A-Family program is one way we can help spread holiday joy in our community. This year, the Families First Adopt-A-Family in partnership with Macy’s is making the lives of our families a little brighter by helping more than 500 families in metro Atlanta between Thanksgiving and the New Year. For Thanksgiving, participating families are receiving nonperishable items and gift cards to create delicious meals to enjoy together in their homes. During the Christmas holidays, those adopting families get a wish list of the items requested by both parents and children, which often have a toy listed but also basic needs such as winter coats, shoes, pots, and pans. Senior Citizens without an income are also up for adoption, making such simple requests as a box fan, socks, and extension cords. Items that most of us purchase without a thought, are what they are hoping at Christmas to enjoy “comforts” that a lot of people take for granted. “Families First is so thankful for Macy’s support of Adopt-A-Family and helping us spread holiday joy and cheer. This year we are serving more than 100 additional families thanks to the support of Macy’s and our donors,” said DePriest Waddy, CEO of Families First. “The last 18 months have hit our families hard and it is heartwarming to see our community come together to support our families. Just last week one of our team members spent time with a local Brownie Troop where the girls were earning their Philanthropy Badges by participating in Adopt-A-Family. From individuals to community groups like the Girl Scouts to corporate support, it takes all of us to help spread holiday cheer.” In addition to Families First’s clients, Adopt-A-Family connects with community organizations to help their families including Raising Expectations, Connecting Communities & Families, Westside Works/Atlanta CareerRise and Crossroads Community Ministries. You can join Macy’s and Families First this holiday season to help our families enjoy the holidays! Our Adopt-A-Family helps bring holiday smiles and joy into the homes of our families! Join us today as a wish maker: Families First Donation Drives (roonga.com). This is sponsored content.
Last week, the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) announced ATL Action for Racial Equity, a multi-year, multi-step action plan designed to help address the ongoing effects of systemic racism impacting the Black community. In just a few days since launch, 30 additional metro Atlanta-based companies ranging in size and industry joined the initiative – to-date totaling more than 180 participating organizations. These companies and leaders will leverage the size, scale and expertise of the region’s business community to advance racial equity. Invitations to the initiative remain open, and MAC is inviting all businesses across metro Atlanta to sign on. ATL Action for Racial Equity focuses on measurable actions across corporate policies, inclusive economic development, education and workforce development – critical areas in addressing the region’s immobility and inequity challenges. See quotes below from the region’s business leaders on why they chose to participate and why this initiative is important, now more than ever. Reach out to [email protected] to learn more. Ed Bastian, CEO Delta Air Lines and 2021 Board Chair, Metro Atlanta Chamber: “In metro Atlanta, our differences are our strength. We work together to make our community and the world better. We are not perfect, but we are committed to preserving and holding up this region’s legacy, especially now. As we tackle economic recovery, public health and the disproportionate impacts on our Black community, our business community must do its part. This is a moral and economic imperative as we work to grow our region’s competitiveness today and into the future.” Jimmy Etheredge, CEO North America, Accenture: “Accenture is proud to collaborate with the Metro Atlanta Chamber and business leaders across Atlanta to take action on building a more equitable future for our community. Together, we are acting, we are leading, and we are driving change.” Steve Koonin, CEO, Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena: “We proudly support ATL Action for Racial Equity and promise that our franchise will continue taking the steps and supporting the causes that lead to equity for all in our city.” Rohit Malhotra, Founder and Executive Director, Center for Civic Innovation: “The Center for Civic Innovation mission and day to day operations are designed to fight for an equity-centered Atlanta. The business community in Atlanta has a long and complicated history with equity in our city— we’re glad to see the Metro Atlanta Chamber call on companies and institutions to take measurable actions that align with their publicly stated values and sentiments. It is in this city’s best interest for this effort to succeed.” Jenna Kelly, President, Truist Northern Georgia Region, Truist Bank: “At Truist, we firmly believe in building more just, inclusive, and equitable communities by standing for social justice, denouncing racism in all forms, and partnering with people and organizations who are as committed to equity we are. As we continue to have intentional dialogue around the role we can play in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, we’re excited to join the ATL Action for Racial Equity to do our part in making a positive difference throughout Atlanta.” Mary Schmidt Campbell, President, Spelman College: “If metro Atlanta is to close the region’s stark wealth gap, we all have to commit to bold innovative solutions. Spelman College, committed to the educational excellence of the 2000 Black women who attend the College, is also committed to the educational excellence of students in our neighborhood schools. For the past three years, our students have enjoyed major success in improving the reading scores of students in our neighborhood Washington Cluster Schools. We intend to launch a program that will accomplish improvements in math proficiency. This commitment to the improvement of K-12 education is aligned with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce’s business and community imperative to advance racial inclusion. We are proud to partner with MAC in their strategic approach to advocating for equity.” Kyle Porter, CEO, SalesLoft: “The social justice and equity issues facing our companies, city, and nation are complex and intense. At SalesLoft we are committed to the necessary introspection, self-reflection, and action to be a more inclusive company because we believe it’s the right thing to do for our team, customers, and marketplace. SalesLoft is joining the ATL Action for Racial Equity because our internal efforts will be magnified and our progress accelerated through collaborative community work. Our community will become our ally and accountability partner providing the space to heed best practices, share wisdom, and generate ideas that will positively impact us all. Russ Torres, President, Kimberly-Clark Professional: “At Kimberly-Clark, we believe racial equity and justice are moral issues that must be addressed through comprehensive actions to enact meaningful and sustainable change. We are moving with urgency. Therefore, we are proud to partner with ATL Action for Racial Equity in this mission. Their disciplined, multi-year plan leverages the collective strength of metro Atlanta employers to support focused corporate policies that foster inclusive workforce and community development. With more than 1,500 Kimberly-Clark employees in the metro Atlanta area, this initiative is uniquely personal to us. We believe the success of our company depends on creating workplaces, communities, and experiences where inclusion and diversity are evident and thriving. Together with ATL Action for Racial Equity, we look forward to creating a vibrant and more inclusive region that offers opportunity, growth, and long-term value for all.” Elie Maalouf, CEO, Americas, InterContinental Hotel Group: “We applaud the Metro Atlanta Chamber on this initiative and stand with our peers in the Atlanta business community to advance diversity and inclusion. This commitment and collaboration reflect IHG’s values and inclusive culture, and builds on our own efforts to bring lasting, sustainable progress for the region and our colleagues.” Paul Bowers (Chairman and CEO) and Chris Womack (President), Georgia Power: “At Georgia Power, we deeply value the diversity of our team and the communities we serve. That’s why we are committed to creating an environment where employees and customers feel a sense of belonging and can be their true authentic selves. We’re proud to be a part of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s ATL Action for Racial Equity efforts to do the same here in Atlanta. We believe businesses working together to ensure equality is how we can make a collective impact, and we’re …
Woodruff Park and Peachtree Center partner with Dashboard to curate light-based artworks in Downtown Atlanta The Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (ADID) and Peachtree Center, the iconic Downtown Atlanta office development, announce the third year of PRISM: Winter Lights, a two-month exhibition curated by Dashboard, displaying light-based works by national and local artists. This year, PRISM has expanded to include artwork in the Plaza at Peachtree Center in addition to Woodruff Park. “We’re excited to expand this impressive light installation to Downtown’s iconic Peachtree Center,” said A.J. Robinson, President of the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District and Central Atlanta Progress. “This year we’ll have two programmed spaces for friends and family to gather outside during the holiday season to celebrate the imagination and creativity of top-tier public art.” The third year of PRISM: Winter Lights will feature large-scale artworks by Dan Lam and Fabian Williams on the north end of Woodruff Park by the International Peace Fountain. Also lighting the north end of the Park will be a text-based, neon art piece, curated by Alice Lovelace and featuring words from one of Atlanta’s best known poets, Theresa Davis. Arts & Entertainment Atlanta will provide additional holiday lighting to the area, creating even more cheer and vibrancy to the city’s core. Installations by InKyoung Chun will add colorful illumination in The Plaza at Peachtree Center. “As part of the iconic, center of Downtown, we’re thrilled to join ADID and Dashboard in illuminating Atlanta’s urban core for the holiday season,” said Leslie Bland, director of marketing of Banyan Street Capital, the owner of Peachtree Center. “This artful experience blends perfectly with Peachtree Center’s goal of bringing public art to Downtown. The PRISM: Winter Lights installation will act as cheerful, seasonal welcome mat for visitors of the property and pedestrians along Peachtree Street!” An opening night event will take place at Woodruff Park on December 4th from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. featuring live performances. Food and drinks will be available for purchase. All are invited to explore the free and public exhibit day or night during Woodruff Park and Peachtree Center’s respective hours of operation from December 4, 2021 through January 31, 2022. Artwork at Woodruff Park by: Dan Lam Fabian Williams Neon Poetry curated by Alice Lovelace; selected poet Theresa Davis Artwork at Peachtree Center by: InKyoung Chun, located in The Plaza PRISM: Winter Lights is made possible through the generosity of Mailchimp. Additional support has been provided by the Georgia-Pacific Corporation, the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, Arts & Entertainment Atlanta, the City of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation, and Peachtree Center. For more information about PRISM and Woodruff Park, including park hours and directions, visit www.WoodruffPark.com. Stay connected with Woodruff Park, Peachtree Center, and Dashboard online at @woodruffpark, @peachtreecenter and @dashboard_us. This is sponsored content.
By Michael Norton, Ph.D., Chief Policy Analyst at Reinvestment Fund Public libraries and museums are deeply embedded in their communities in ways that enrich the wellbeing of local residents. Through their core services, programming, and partnerships with other organizations, they catalyze broader networks of support that meet a diverse range of needs for individuals, organizations, and their broader communities. Reinvestment Fund recently completed a national study of the nation’s museums and public libraries to explore the different ways these institutions promote the quality of life in their communities. As a mission-driven financial institution, Reinvestment Fund has an unwavering commitment to make communities work for all people. In addition to bringing financial tools to partnerships to ensure that everyone has access to essential opportunities, we also offer data and research tools to help us and our partners understand markets, communities, and impediments to opportunity. This national study was done in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, with the Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP) at University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice and HR&A Advisors. The multi-year, multi-market study found the presence and usage of public libraries and museums to be positively associated with multiple dimensions of social wellbeing by promoting public health, supporting education, facilitating connections between individuals and organizations, and enhancing the cultural environment of their communities. Aarti Sharma, Executive Director of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library Foundation sees libraries as integral to healthy and thriving communities. “When libraries are fully utilized as critical convening and programming hubs, we succeed together,” shares Sharma. “Programming at libraries, like One Book, One Read in Fulton County, bring people together across lines of difference to engage in critical conversation and build community.” Reinvestment Fund’s study team also visited 24 museums and libraries across the country. These visits confirmed that the ways these institutions engage with their patrons and organizational partners is heavily informed by the local context—the type of community they serve (urban, suburban, or rural), the type and size of their institution, and the needs of local residents and communities. Museums and libraries adapt to local contexts and customize their services to advance their institutional missions and goals while being responsive to changing conditions and observed needs in their communities. One of our site visits was the Woodlands Garden in Decatur, a nonprofit public garden. Woodlands Gardens provides an urban refuge and promotes wellbeing as a resource for others to use, rather than as an active agent of change. This approach is grounded in the Gardens’ commitment to accessibility as welcoming to populations that can benefit from their resources. “Dr. and Mrs. Morse’s gift of Woodlands Garden in 2002 was built on making the urban sanctuary at Scott Blvd and Clairemont Ave in Decatur accessible to the community,” shares Kate McAlpin, Executive Director of the Garden. Decatur residents with developmental disabilities are one group that Woodlands Gardens have focused on serving. The Garden is currently partnering with an area chapter of a non-profit, L’Arche Atlanta, that provides semi-autonomous housing to individuals with disabilities. As part of their recent expansion, the Garden acquired an eight-bedroom home on an adjacent parcel of land. The Garden sold the property to L’Arche, which is working to renovate the property. The house will be owned and managed by L’Arche, allowing residents permanent and easy access to Woodlands Garden. Individuals with developmental disabilities already participate in many of the Garden’s annual activities, and those with sensory sensitivities find the Garden to be a therapeutic environment. “We look forward to growing our partnership with new neighbor, L’Arche Atlanta, by collaborating on volunteer projects, sharing educational opportunities, and continuing to promote accessibility for all audiences at Woodlands as inspired by the Morse family,” said McAlpin. The Garden’s largest event of the year, “Fairies in the Garden,” also represents its focus on urban education and engagement with the intent of contributing to social wellbeing. The event is held for children and families in the community in partnership with the Skyland Trails clinic, a local residential psychiatric clinic and non-profit mental health treatment organization. For the last nine years, the clinic’s art therapy patients have worked together to create fairy doors and fairy homes that are installed throughout the Garden. Children and families come to Woodland Garden to find the fairy homes and participate in arts and crafts, managed by volunteers from the local YMCA. The event is free and extremely popular with the local community: in the past year, the event attracted 750 individuals in a two-and-a-half-hour period. This event exemplifies the ways in which the Garden seeks to contribute to social wellbeing: the event provides a sanctuary for children and families that come annually to the event. For campers at the local YMCA, the event is an educational experience and an opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills through planning and staffing arts and craft activities. For the participants in Skyland Trail’s therapy programs, the event is an opportunity for patients in the organization’s expressive therapies program to share their work and give back to their community. The missions and programs of cultural institutions across the country afford an opportunity for communities to reflect their collective best selves. The findings from this study suggest that local libraries and museums are actively involved in animating social and institutional connections that catalyze the creativity, ingenuity, and empathy within their communities in ways that promote personal and social wellbeing. Working with community partners, they are able to address community needs more effectively than they could alone. As critical civic institutions that engage communities and advance inclusion, they are uniquely aligned with Reinvestment Fund’s own work to build strong, healthy and equitable communities. The services these institutions provide, the collections they maintain, and the interactions that happen (intentionally and fortuitously) through their spaces and through their community networks are crucial threads in the broader social and institutional fabric of places that promote human flourishing. Learn more about our study Understanding the Social Wellbeing Impacts of the Nation’s Libraries and …
by Nancy Clair Laird McInaney, Board Chair, The Nature Conservancy – Georgia The bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law by the president last week offers an extraordinary opportunity to address critical needs in communities across Georgia and the country. Its investments in energy, transportation and natural infrastructure will support valuable jobs and economic development. The bill – officially known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — was a true bipartisan achievement, backed by members of Congress across the political spectrum. I am grateful to those in Georgia’s congressional delegation who helped secure its passage. Much of the praise for the bill has understandably focused on how this funding will enhance roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure. I’d like to highlight some of the ways it will also help to advance conservation. Natural Infrastructure: The infrastructure bill underscores the vital role nature plays in making our communities stronger and safer. It establishes a clear definition of “natural infrastructure” that recognizes how natural ecosystems help communities manage flooding and other risks. (A 2017 study conducted by The Nature Conservancy and partners documented the role that coastal wetlands played in preventing more than $625 million in property damages during Hurricane Sandy.) With enactment of the infrastructure bill, natural infrastructure solutions are now more widely eligible for funding. Fish and Wildlife: The package provides funding to support restoration of aquatic, forest and other vital ecosystems, benefiting both nature and those communities whose jobs and economies are tied to sustaining healthy forests and wildlife habitats. This might include, for example, upgrading aging water culverts in ways that would enhance roadway safety, improve water quality, and provide fish and aquatic life with better mobility and habitat. The intersection of transportation and nature receives another boost in the package by providing funds for the construction of wildlife crossings in strategic locations to reduce the incidence of vehicle-wildlife collisions. Community Resilience: Georgia’s coastal communities will have access to expanded funding to improve their resilience to storms and rising seas, including resources to support flood protection, pre-disaster risk reduction and resilience enhancement. Funding to mitigate the danger of wildfires could further enhance the state’s use of prescribed burning to maintain healthy forests and reduce the risk of wildfire. Clean Energy: Any efforts to safeguard our communities and lands for future generations must be complemented by a successful drive to reduce our state’s carbon emissions. The infrastructure bill’s provisions supporting clean energy move us forward on that path, funding a range of measures that will have meaningful impact on reducing emissions and enhancing the quality of our lives. From support for clean energy development and enhanced energy efficiency to improvements making our transportation options cleaner and our power grid more resilient, the infrastructure package catalyzes the kind of progress we must make to meet the challenge before us. The additional clean energy provisions in the anticipated Build Back Better legislation will further accelerate this progress. Broadband: Think broadband expansion isn’t a conservation concern? Guess again. The pandemic revealed the gaps our communities face regarding internet access, particularly in rural areas. The internet is key to how we learn about our world now. It can spark and sustain a student’s interest in nature. It can connect aspiring naturalists to education opportunities and jobs. The infrastructure funding will help us fill the gaps to ensure more equitable access for all. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides us with an unprecedented opportunity. The investments we make now at the federal, state and local levels will drive tangible improvements for our communities and natural lands. Implementing these improvements will provide many good-paying jobs that benefit families across our state and country. As we mobilize to tap these funds, let’s use the power of public-private partnerships to work together to seize this opportunity for Georgia. This is sponsored content.
Average U.S. credit scores climb to 695 according to Experian’s State of Credit report and new HOPE Financial Wellness Index As we end the second summer since the arrival of COVID-19, Experian® today announced key findings from its 12th annual State of Credit report. This year’s report also serves as a launch for Operation HOPE’s all-new HOPE Financial Wellness Index, which will help shine a consistent light on the current state of consumer credit. Despite a challenging year and a half, the new data shows consumers are managing credit well with average credit scores climbing seven points since 2020 to 695 – the highest point in more than 13 years. “While consumers on average are managing their credit histories well, we know there are many communities in critical need of more financial education and resources” Tweet this According to Experian’s report, many consumers were managing credit well before the pandemic’s arrival and the accommodations afforded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act may have helped consumers protect their financial health. At the same time, stay-at-home orders and record savings levels1 may have contributed to lower unsecured and total debt levels, lower credit utilization rates and fewer missed payments. This year, Experian is partnering with Operation HOPE – the nation’s largest nonprofit dedicated to improving financial literacy – to launch the HOPE Financial Wellness Index, which highlights the average credit score in every state and city. According to the index, consumers in Minnesota have the highest credit scores with an average of 726, followed by Vermont (719), New Hampshire (718), Washington (717) and Massachusetts (716). States with the lowest credit scores were found in the south, including Mississippi (666), Louisiana (669), Alabama (672), Oklahoma (672) and Texas (673). The HOPE Financial Wellness Index will be updated regularly and will be used to develop programming and identify communities most in need of financial education and resources. “We believe credit education plays an important role in driving financial inclusion and helping consumers reach their fullest potential,” said Alex Lintner, President Experian Consumer Information Services. “While these findings are positive, we recognize they do not tell the full story and many consumers face financial obstacles due to a limited credit history. We are committed to working with consumers, as well as our partners like Operation HOPE, to improve financial equity and access.” Given the unique circumstances of 2020, this year’s report compared credit trends over the last three years. While consumers took on more mortgage and auto debt, score improvements were supported by fewer missed payments, lower credit utilization rates and reduced card balances and total debt levels year-over-year and prior to the pandemic’s arrival. Highlights of Experian’s State of Credit report include: 2021 State of Credit Report 2019 2020 2021 Average VantageScore® 2 682 688 695 Median VantageScore 687 697 707 Average number of credit cards 3.0 3.0 3.0 Average credit card balance $6,494 $5,897 $5,525 Average revolving utilization rate 30% 26% 25% Average number of retail credit cards 2.50 2.42 2.33 Average retail credit card balance $1,930 $2,044 $1,887 Average nonmortgage debt $25,057 $25,483 $25,112 Average mortgage debt $210,263 $215,655 $229,242 Average auto loan or lease debt $19,034 $19,462 $20,505 Average 30–59 days past due delinquency rates 3.8% 2.4% 2.3% Average 60–89 days past due delinquency rates 1.9% 1.3% 1.0% Average 90–180 days past due delinquency rates 6.6% 3.8% 2.5% “While consumers on average are managing their credit histories well, we know there are many communities in critical need of more financial education and resources,” said John Hope Bryant, Operation HOPE founder and CEO. “By helping people raise their credit scores, we are empowering them to take advantage of one of our nation’s most democratic tools. From housing and employment to healthcare and education, credit worthiness can be leveraged to improve our overall quality of life. We’re committed to using the HOPE Financial Wellness Index as a force for good in the communities we serve.” Understanding generational differences State of Credit also spotlights how each generation is managing their debts, showing scores have improved for every generation year-over-year. This trend is attributed to declining utilization rates and fewer missed payments. Credit utilization rates have declined for nearly every generation since 2019 except Gen Z who saw a slight uptick year-over-year. Similarly, credit card balances decreased for consumers of all age groups except Gen Z who increased their balances by $115 year-over-year. Across the board, consumers are missing fewer payments, with notable improvements seen among the youngest consumers. Gen Z decreased their 90 – 180 days past due delinquency rate by 29 percent year over year to 1.73 in 2021. This is a 72 percent decrease from the same period in 2019. Millennials also decreased their 90 – 180 days past due delinquency rates to 1.73 percent in 2021, down from 4.4% in 2021 and 10.6 percent in 2019. Additional 2021 generational findings from Experian’s State of Credit report include: 2021 findings by generation Gen Z Gen Y Gen X Boomers Silent Average VantageScore® 660 667 685 724 730 Median VantageScore 674 678 699 755 741 Average number of credit cards 1.7 2.7 3.3 3.4 2.7 Average credit card balance $2,312 $4,569 $7,236 $6,230 $3,821 Average revolving utilization rate 31% 30% 30% 21% 13% Average number of retail credit cards 1.6 2.1 2.5 2.5 2.1 Average retail credit card balance $1,125 $1,819 $2,214 $1,887 $1,329 Average nonmortgage debt $12,524 $28,317 $32,898 $24,136 $11,725 Average mortgage debt $192,276 $255,527 $259,100 $198,203 $163,254 Average 30–59 days past due delinquency rates 2.1% 3.1% 3.0% 1.8% 1.1% Average 60–89 days past due delinquency rates 1.0% 1.3% 1.3% 0.8% 0.5% Average 90–180 days past due delinquency rates 1.7% 3.2% 3.4% 2.0% 1.3% A strong credit history and responsible credit management can help consumers save thousands of dollars over a lifetime. For example, a person with a low credit score may pay close to $3,000 more in interest to purchase a $10,000 used car3 and a person with a subprime credit score may pay $241 more per month or $86,503 more over the life of a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan than a person with a score of 760 or above4. …
By Charles Redding, MedShare CEO & President While the health care system in Senegal is improving, there is still a tremendous need to address health disparities within the population. As a result, only 32 percent of rural households have access to regular health care. Senegal has only around 3.1 nurses and midwives per 10,000 people, which makes it one of the countries least covered with qualified maternal care in the world (162 out of 187 countries). Not surprisingly, outcomes for maternal and child health are poor. Many organizations are working to provide aid to ensure wider access to health care in Senegal. MedShare recently had the opportunity to join efforts with the Jef Jel Project to provide aid to Senegal with a focus on Maternal Child Health. “Jef Jel” is an expression in the Wolof language of Senegal that comes from the words “jef” meaning “effort” and “jel” meaning “take.” Together, “jef jel” translates to “give and take” or “the nature of your reward equals the nature of your effort.” The Jef Jel Project supports the people of Ndangane, a small rural village in Senegal, West Africa. Through the support of Jef Jel, the villagers will: live and survive within a familial social support system establish entrepreneurial activities in the agricultural, fishery, and artist industries have timely access to quality health care have the means to pursue education without jeopardizing the success of their income-generating activities or their progress toward financial independence. MedShare partnered with Jef Jel to deliver over $200,000 worth of medical supplies and equipment to Centre Hospitalier Regional El Hadji Ibrahima. It is estimated that these supplies were used to treat over 15,000 patients and included many items needed to improve maternal and child health outcomes, including beds, bassinets, sutures, ambu bags and Clean Birthing Kits. “Hello to all who participated [in] the success of this donation. We say thank you from the bottom of our hearts. May god bless you: Amen! Thanks again for your support of our community in need. Particularly in rural areas we do not have the means, and the supplies and equipment will go a long way to helping. My sincere thanks to the Jef Jel Project. The picture attached shows women from our village with their babies who received medical supplies and clean birthing kits from MedShare.” With a total population over 15 million people, much work remains to put access to quality health services within reach of most Senagalese. 54% of the population lives below the poverty line and the infant mortality rate is 42/1,000 live births. MedShare is very fortunate to work with organizations like Jef Jel that aim to provide vital assistance to struggling communities in Senegal so that they can fully participate in their local economies and live healthier and happier lives. This is sponsored content.
By Aixa Pascual A new development of Craftsman-style micro-cottages one block from downtown Clarkston is giving some a shot at home ownership. Cottages on Vaughan, a neighborhood of eight one-bedroom homes – each under 492-square-feet built – sold out quickly earlier this year at prices that ranged from $120,000 to $200,000. None was subsidized. Cottages on Vaughan is a collaboration between the City of Clarkston and the MicroLife Institute, a local developer that advocates for zoning policies that foster connecting community. The innovative project aligns with the city’s 2040 goal of providing more home ownership opportunities and with the desires of its residents expressed in the Clarkston Speaks survey. “Social equity is inherently built into the Cottages on Vaughan,” said William Johnston, executive director of the MicroLife Institute and a Cottages resident. “These homes create an opportunity to accessible home ownership for anyone looking to either downsize their way to happiness or buy their first home.” Cottages on Vaughan is the winner of ARC’s 2021 Regional Excellence Award for Innovative Development. Read on at What’s Next ATL. This is sponsored content.
By Ashley Bell Amid the widespread racial justice movement that emerged last year following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, many large corporations were lauded for their work combatting the racial inequities that have plagued our nation since its inception. While these companies have certainly helped advance the cause, their efforts have fallen short of truly addressing the deeply entrenched inequalities in Black communities across the country. To be truly effective in this effort, we need companies and organizations of all shapes and sizes to step up to address the pressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, and provide resources to accelerate this much needed change. While this can seem like a daunting task, there are fortunately many groups that are already engaged that can provide a roadmap for those looking to get involved. Arguably one of the most well-known organizations taking up the mantle is the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, which is refinancing the construction loan for the team’s Emory Sports Medicine Complex with a syndicate of Black-owned banks. The $35 million loan, which was facilitated with the support of the National Black Bank Foundation (NBBF), marked the first time that a professional sports franchise took out a significant loan that was underwritten exclusively by Black banks. To understand the significance of this loan, it is important to know the state of Black banks in the country today. Black banks are often the primary source for fair, non-predatory lending within the African American community, yet since 2001, their numbers have fallen by more than half. In 1976, there were 50 Black banks spread across the country, but according to the FDIC’s latest count, that number is now just 18. The loan taken out by the Hawks not only helps Black banks as it allows them to compete with the major commercial banks, but it is also a win for the Black community. The dearth of access to basic financial services in many Black neighborhoods has forced underserved populations to rely on predatory businesses like check-cashing and payday loans. But by supporting the health and growth of Black banks, the Hawks are not just helping these vital financial institutions but are ensuring equitable access to capital for underserved communities of color and helping close America’s racial wealth gap. It is not just professional sports teams and household names, however, that are working to upend racial inequities. There are many cases of less well-known organizations making a big impact in Black communities throughout the country. For example, there is the Atlanta-based real estate firm Ornstein-Schuler Investments (OSI), which has donated $25,000 to the NBBF to help modernize the Black banking sector. While OSI has contributed for the past two decades to improve the lives of the people in the communities they operate in, this particular donation could not come at a more opportune time. In 2019, 49 percent of Black households were underbanked or completely unbanked compared to just 15 percent of white households, according to the Federal Reserve. A large reason for this is the sad fact that the Black community has very few trustworthy banking options at its disposal. Investing in Black banks – whether it be by introducing new digital tools or expanding the number physical branch locations in minority neighborhoods – means also making an investment in Black-owned businesses and Black neighborhoods. That is why the Hawks’ and OSI’s contributions to the NBBF are so important to help modernize the black banking sector and ensure Black-owned businesses not only survive but thrive. The Atlanta Hawks and Ornstein-Schuler Investments are two great examples of organizations of different sizes doing their part to combat structural racism and inequities in Atlanta and beyond. But they can’t be the only ones. To make a real and lasting change, businesses and organizations large and small need to step up, speak out and make a difference through their voices and their donations. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once famously said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” so do not be silent. Ashley Bell is a partner at the global law firm Dentons and co-founded the National Black Bank Foundation, which facilitated a first-in-professional sports deal between the Atlanta Hawks and 11 Black-owned banks. This is sponsored content.
Westside Future Fund (WFF) is excited to be supporting thought leadership in the SaportaReport on Atlanta’s Historic Westside. At the October 15 Transform Westside Summit we announced the Westside Future Fund (WFF) PRI Program! A program-related investment (PRI) is low-cost capital that not-for-profit organizations can use to spur community development. Thanks to charitable support from Truist and PNC banks, WFF will provide low-cost loans to small, minority-owned businesses based in or serving the Historic Westside. This program builds on a pilot initially funded by AT&T and the Beloved Benefit. Our goal is to mobilize people with current, historical, or aspirational ties to the community to organically support the Westside’s economic development. The October 15 Transform Westside Summit highlighted the importance of economic empowerment of African American entrepreneurs with three special guest panelists – Courtney Smith from PNC Bank, Paul Wilson, Jr. from the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE), and Keitra Bates of Marddy’s Shared Kitchen and Marketplace. A common theme from the panelists was the need for equity in access to capital for Black business owners. Keitra Bates noted that white startups have access to $100,000 from family, on average, while for black startups, it’s only $11,000. In June 2020, PNC Bank announced its bold $1 billion commitment to playing a role in combatting racism and discrimination. During the Summit, Courtney elaborated on PNC’s commitment to the Westside by helping end systemic racism by donating to WFF for program-related investments. Keitra Bates is a recipient of a WFF PRI that she used to renovate and expand her shared kitchen. Marddy’s focus is on economic inclusion, business development, and growth opportunities for local food entrepreneurs with their primary service groups of people of color, women, and other marginalized populations. With the help of RICE, the PRI recipients will have access to resources to innovate, grow, create jobs, and build wealth. Part business generator, innovation lab, and museum, RICE invests in African American entrepreneurs, strengthens businesses, and creates community. We have many miles to eliminate the wealth gap between white and black startups. Thanks to our panelists and the organization they represent, we are making progress and hopefully serving as models for others! Check out our newsletter to learn more about the October 15 Summit. This is sponsored content.
By Alison O’Carroll, director and philanthropic counsel, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta The end of the year is known as the giving season, and this year it’s possible to increase charitable giving while also decreasing potential taxes. There are some unique charitable giving opportunities available only in 2021 and other tax-wise giving strategies to consider. Some of the favorable tax changes made by the CARES Act, passed in March 2020, have been extended by Congress for 2021, only. For those who itemize deductions in 2021, the cap on annual giving for gifts of cash is 100% of adjusted gross income (AGI) instead of the usual 60% of AGI limit. That means a donor who uses all of her available deduction for qualified gifts would pay no federal income tax in 2021. Tip: This may be the year to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Give a gift of cash to a public charity at the same time, thus offsetting the income tax liability of the Roth conversion using this maximum deduction for cash gifts. Donors who claim the standard deduction still have an above-the-line deduction for charitable gifts. The amount remains the same for an individual ($300) but married couples filing joint returns can deduct up to $600, an increase from last year. In both of these cases, the gift must be cash and made to a public charity (excluding donor-advised funds). Other tax-wise giving strategies: Gifts of appreciated stock. While the stock market has been volatile this year, it is ending on a high note in many sectors. Gifts of appreciated stock owned for more than one year offer great tax benefits and can be made to public charities as well as donor-advised funds (DAFs). A gift of stock or mutual fund shares avoids all capital gains tax, which enables donors to give up to 20% (for some, 23.8%) more than if they sold the stock and donated the cash proceeds. In addition, the charitable deduction is for the full fair market value, providing a deduction on income that was never taxed. This same giving strategy applies to other appreciated assets as well, such as real estate, mutual fund shares, and closely-held business interests. Consider an IRA Charitable Rollover. There is no longer a required minimum distribution (RMD) waiver. As a result, anyone age 72 or older as of December 31, 2021, must take an RMD by year-end (unless this is the first RMD, in which case the deadline is April 1, 2022). Donors can meet this RMD requirement and support philanthropy through an IRA Charitable Rollover gift. The IRA Charitable Rollover gift essentially allows donors to have a charitable deduction for a gift even when you use the standard deduction. For people 70½ or older, distributions of up to $100,000 can be made from a Traditional (or Roth) IRA each year to a public charity (excluding donor-advised funds) and the amount will not count as taxable income. Bunch gifts to charity. Instead of giving smaller gifts to nonprofits every year, some donors choose to “bunch” gifts by donating a larger amount in an alternate year to “beat” the standard deduction. This allows taxpayers to itemize charitable gifts and potentially secure tax advantages. Cash gifts can be made up until the last day of the year, but the other strategies may need a little more time. Check with a financial planner to determine timing and other tax planning strategies. This is sponsored content.
A team of six Emory computer science students are helping to usher in a new era in artificial intelligence. They’ve developed a chatbot capable of making logical inferences that aims to hold deeper, more nuanced conversations with humans than have previously been possible. They’ve christened their chatbot “Emora,” because it sounds like a feminine version of “Emory” and is similar to a Hebrew word for an eloquent sage. The team is now refining their new approach to conversational AI — a logic-based framework for dialogue management that can be scaled to conduct real-life conversations. Their longer-term goal is to use Emora to assist first-year college students, helping them to navigate a new way of life, deal with day-to-day issues and guide them to proper human contacts and other resources when needed. Eventually, they hope to further refine their chatbot — developed during the era of COVID-19 with the philosophy “Emora cares for you” — to assist people dealing with social isolation and other issues, including anxiety and depression. The Emory team is headed by graduate students Sarah Finch and James Finch, along with faculty advisor Jinho Choi, associate professor in the Department of Computer Sciences. The team also includes graduate student Han He and undergraduates Sophy Huang, Daniil Huryn and Mack Hutsell. All the students are members of Choi’s Natural Language Processing Research Laboratory. “We’re taking advantage of established technology while introducing a new approach in how we combine and execute dialogue management so a computer can make logical inferences while conversing with a human,” Sarah Finch says. “We believe that Emora represents a groundbreaking moment for conversational artificial intelligence,” Choi adds. “The experience that users have with our chatbot will be largely different than chatbots based on traditional, state-machine approaches to AI.” Last year, Choi and Sarah and James Finch headed a team of 14 Emory students that took first place in Amazon’s Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge, winning $500,000 for their Emora chatbot. The annual Alexa Prize challenges university students to make breakthroughs in the design of chatbots, also known as socialbots — software apps that simplify interactions between humans and computers by allowing them to talk with one another. This year, they developed a completely new version of Emora with the new team of six students. They made the bold decision to start from scratch, instead of building on the state-machine platform they developed in 2020 for Emora. “We realized there was an upper limit to how far we could push the quality of the system we developed last year,” Sarah Finch says. “We wanted to do something much more advanced, with the potential to transform the field of artificial intelligence.” They based the current Emora on three types of frameworks to advance core natural language processing technology, computational symbolic structures and probabilistic reasoning for dialogue management. They worked around the clock, making it into the Alexa Prize finals in June. They did not complete most of the new system, however, until just a few days before they had to submit Emora to the judges for the final round of the competition. That gave the team no time to make finishing touches to the new system, work out the bugs, and flesh out the range of topics that it could deeply engage in with a human. While they did not win this year’s Alexa Prize, the strategy led them to develop a system that holds more potential to open new doors of possibilities for AI. In the run-up to the finals, users of Amazon’s virtual assistant, known as Alexa, volunteered to test out the competing chatbots, which were not identified by their names or universities. A chatbot’s success was gauged by user ratings. “The competition is extremely valuable because it gave us access to a high volume of people talking to our bot from all over the world,” James Finch says. “When we wanted to try something new, we didn’t have to wait long to see whether it worked. We immediately got this deluge of feedback so that we could make any needed adjustments. One of the biggest things we learned is that what people really want to talk about is their personal experiences. ” Sarah and James Finch, who married in 2019, are the ultimate computer power couple. They met at age 13 in a math class in their hometown of Grand Blanc, Michigan. They were dating by high school, bonding over a shared love of computer programming. As undergraduates at Michigan State University, they worked together on a joint passion for programming computers to speak more naturally with humans. “If we can create more flexible and robust dialogue capability in machines,” Sarah Finch explains, “a more natural, conversational interface could replace pointing, clicking and hours of learning a new software interface. Everyone would be on a more equal footing because using technology would become easier.” She hopes to pursue a career in enhancing computer dialogue capabilities with private industry after receiving her PhD. James Finch is most passionate about the intellectual aspects of solving problems and is leaning towards a career in academia after receiving his PhD. The Alexa Prize deadlines required the couple to work many 60-hour-plus weeks on developing Emora’s framework, but they didn’t consider it a grind. “I’ve enjoyed every day,” James Finch says. “Doing this kind of dialogue research is our dream and we’re living it. We are making something new that will hopefully be useful to the world.” They chose to come to Emory for graduate school because of Choi, an expert in natural language processing, and Eugene Agichtein, professor in the Department of Computer Science and an expert in information retrieval. Emora was designed not just to answer questions, but as a “social companion.” A caring chatbot was an essential requirement for Choi. At the end of every team meeting, he asks one member to say something about how the others have inspired them. “When someone sees a bright side in us, and shares it with others, everyone sees that …
By Damian Ramsey Since the onset of the pandemic, there has been a nationwide drop in the number of students completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and enrolling in postsecondary institutions. Postsecondary enrollment is fundamental to the establishment of a skilled and educated workforce, and a thriving local economy. To gain a better understanding of the pandemic’s impact on FAFSA completion and enrollment trends in the Metro Atlanta region, Learn4Life (L4L) commissioned a study by Bellwether Education Partners that seeks to bring awareness to the issue and identify potential bright spots to reverse this trend. The study found that over the pandemic, national postsecondary enrollment declines nearly doubled (-1.3% in 2019 to -2.5% in 2020), and national FAFSA completion rates dropped 3%, translating to more than a quarter of a million fewer FAFSA applications. At 4 percent, regional FAFSA completion declines have outpaced the rest of the country. About 1,100 fewer students in Metro Atlanta applied for FAFSA this year compared to last. A prerequisite to obtaining an affordable or even debt free degree, the FAFSA helps determine eligibility for financial aid to pay for college (2-year, 4-years, or technical programs). Securing this aid, which comes in the form of low-cost loans, grants, work-study, and in some cases, state and institutional funding, increases postsecondary enrollment by 35%, and every additional $1000 in financial aid increases postsecondary persistence rates by 4%. Moreover, college graduates in Georgia earn on average $850,000 more over their careers than diploma holders do, contributing $2M to the state’s GDP. Unfortunately, those who would most benefit from financial aid, low-income students and students of color, have historically been the least likely to apply. In 2021, the study found only 40% of students in high poverty schools had taken this critical step to secure funding to make postsecondary school affordable. Common deterrents have included limited knowledge about what the FAFSA is and who is eligible for aid, feelings that the application is too cumbersome, concerns about incurring loan debt, and for undocumented students and families, fear of revealing their status to the government. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded existing concerns. Worries about family financial well-being due to income reduction and job loss have compelled many students to question the viability of college. The study found that 44% of parents said that they cannot afford to pay as much of their child’s education as they had originally planned, and 21% of low-income students said money from their jobs is needed to support their family rather than paying for college expenses. Students are prioritizing the immediate needs of their families over the long-term benefits of a college degree, and so postsecondary enrollment has taken a back seat. Another set of challenges to FAFSA completion are strained resources within high schools. School counselors, who were already struggling to provide adequate financial advising to caseloads nearly twice the recommended ratio of 1:250, have even less time since the pandemic to assist students with FAFSA or postsecondary planning. Supporting students and families through pandemic-related grief, job loss, and food and housing insecurity, overseeing social emotional learning (SEL), and promoting restorative justice, are a handful of the things that have taken precedence for counselors during the COVID-19 crisis. Only 38 percent of seniors in 2021 reported that their schools provided support when applying for financial aid or college, and remote learning disconnected students from the normal support they may have received prior to the pandemic. As a result, navigating the complex financial aid process is all but impossible for too many students, especially those in high-poverty, under-resourced schools. To help address these inequities, Learn4Life has joined forces with United Way’s College Bound Initiative and The Scholarship Academy. Together, they are harnessing the power of collective impact to offer a comprehensive suite of supports to add capacity to school counseling teams in high-poverty schools throughout the region: free FAFSA training for staff and community volunteers, in-person and virtual FAFSA completion events, one-to-one office hours, marketing materials, scholarship resources, and incentives for completion. Given the impact of FAFSA completion on postsecondary success, decisive action must occur to reverse regional submission declines, put more students back on track to choice-filled careers, and protect the vitality of Metro Atlanta’s workforce and economy. By bringing awareness to the issue of postsecondary enrollment decline in our region, Learn4Life hopes to motivate local organizations to target resources and interventions to set more students (especially those furthest from opportunity) on a path toward postsecondary success. For more detail on this analysis and possible solutions, please access the complete study. If you are a parent, or from a school, nonprofit, community organization, or business, and you would like to join our collective impact work to improve postsecondary outcomes in Metro Atlanta, let us know here. We would love to have your voice at the table. This is sponsored content.