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The true cost of college, including non-tuition costs, pushes students toward economic instability. Nearly one in three California college students face food and housing insecurity. COVID-19 exacerbated the challenges faced by students, forcing 3 out of every 5 to face basic needs insecurity during the pandemic. In response to this crisis, the Michelson 20MM Foundation invited organizations to apply for the Michelson Spark Grants program, our rapid grantmaking process aimed at quickly infusing resources into highly impactful initiatives that would otherwise go unfunded through a traditional, lengthy timeline. 

Today we are proud to announce that we are committing $100,000 to organizations that are doing important work to help students meet their basic needs. Please join us in celebrating the four Michelson 20MM Student Basic Needs Spark Grantees and their projects:

California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH)

California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) will tackle the fragmented approach to collecting data on basic needs by creating “The Resilience Inventory,” a set of concise questions that will allow students to self-identify as belonging to a specific vulnerable population. The data will serve as an eligibility pre-screener for student support programs and will shared across all 23 CSU campuses. The digital version of the Resilience Inventory will be made available for free, translated into multiple languages, ADA accessible, and formatted to be easily uploaded into various softwares so that students can fill out the form by simply swiping their student ID card. The Resilience Inventory will provide a more robust data profile of students seeking assistance with basic needs and allow campuses to speak to exactly how many of their students identify as current/former foster youth, homeless, food-insecure, military affiliated, LGBTQIA+, disabled, formerly incarcerated, undocumented, and other special populations. 

Elevate HOPE 

Elevate Community Services and Fresno City College will produce the “Elevate HOPE (Housing Opportunities Promote Education)” blueprint, a roadmap for providing affordable housing to community college students. Elevate HOPE is the first scalable public-private sector partnership of its kind in the United States to address homelessness and housing insecurity for community college students. Elevate HOPE will outline how schools can maximize financial aid to meet the immediate needs of homeless students and increase students’ access to apartments that would have not been available to them due to poor credit, lack of income, insufficient rental history or history with the criminal justice system. To date, 71 affordable apartment units have been leased to Fresno City College students and by the end of 2022, Elevate HOPE will lease to more than 200 students. The Elevate HOPE blueprint will be made available to all California Community Colleges.  

Higher Learning Advocates

Higher Learning Advocates and its Today’s Students Coalition (TSC) will deploy the #emergenCAid education and awareness campaign, which will use various platforms to amplify California student experiences with financial emergencies. Building momentum via a student stories project, a social media campaign, and a phone-to-action strategy, TSC will connect California students to their delegation in Washington, D.C., to uplift the need for a permanent student emergency aid solution. 

Young Invincibles

Young Invincibles will spearhead a student-led research project on the effective implementation of California’s recent $30 million investment in basic needs centers at the state’s community colleges. The successful implementation of the centers has the potential to become a model for other states. Young Invincibles will ensure that programs across California are student centered, and implement a values-based perspective, including principles of belonging, equity, and justice. 

Over the coming weeks, we look forward to sharing a series of blogs highlighting each of our recent grantees and the important work they are doing.

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.