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Spotlight July 13, 2020

West Virginia’s Climb

Ascendium Education Group knows that in order to achieve ambitious goals, a collaborative effort is required. It is why we recently granted $750,000 to Philanthropy West Virginia to support West Virginia’s Climb, a new public awareness and programming campaign aimed at increasing the state’s postsecondary education attainment rate to at least 60% by 2030.

Actively involved in addressing many of West Virginia’s most urgent educational needs, Philanthropy West Virginia, along with more than 25 foundations and companies included in their Education Funders Affinity Group (EAG), are interested in pooling their resources for this initiative. The group invests in high-leverage activities aimed at transforming the state’s higher education landscape, with a special focus on helping students in rural communities overcome financial and administrative barriers to college access and success.

While West Virginia’s rurality presents challenges, it also provides an ideal ground for the development of strategies aimed at addressing the struggles faced by rural communities. Ascendium and Philanthropy West Virginia believe that similar organizations in other states can learn important lessons about the power of strategic collaboration and hope that by sharing their story, the public-private-philanthropic-nonprofit collaboration model can inform future work in this field.

Along with Philanthropy West Virginia, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, West Virginia Department of Education, Workforce West Virginia and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources will also support this campaign targeted at supporting rural students, first-generation students and students from low-income backgrounds.

“What makes this project truly innovative is the unique partnership between the state, Philanthropy West Virginia and the network of education-focused funders,” said Danielle Vetter, senior program officer at Ascendium. “Having a group of funders coming together to support a single group of priorities is a model that not only can be replicated, but one that demonstrates lasting, long-term thinking for the state.”

Philanthropy West Virginia’s motto is “When philanthropy partners, communities prosper,” and by bringing a variety of funders together to leverage national partnerships, both Philanthropy West Virginia and Ascendium are confident they can invest in meaningful change for West Virginia’s rural student population.

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