For years, the Michelson 20MM Foundation has sought to leverage higher education as a catalytic force for transforming the lives of justice-involved individuals. Backed by research that demonstrates the transformative nature of higher education for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students, and fueled by the belief that everyone deserves access to higher education, we are continuing our commitment to Smart Justice through the 2022 Spark Grants funding cycle. 

The cycle, which closed last month, called on non-profits whose work focuses on California’s justice-impacted communities to submit proposals for grants up to $25,000. Specifically, we sought to fill the following gaps in the higher educational landscape: 

  • Programming that supports access to high-wage high-growth employment and career opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals.
  • Opportunities that grow the pipeline for college enrollment of individuals who did not pursue higher education while in prison.
  • Multigenerational approaches focused on supporting the family unit of justice impacted students (parents, children, uncle/aunt, cousins, etc.)
  • Scalable solutions for soon-to-be or recently released individuals to advance digital skills.
  • Elevating the voices of justice-impacted student leaders to build awareness and educate policymakers on specific challenges and needs.

On the heels of a competitive funding cycle, and based on the recommendations of our Spark Community Advisors, please join us in welcoming the 2022 Smart Justice Spark Grantees! 

Four years since Michelson 20MM supported the launch of Impact Justice’s California Justice Leaders program, there are now 110 alumni who have completed at least one year of service through their Credible Messenger model—a model where justice-impacted individuals help fellow justice-impacted people reenter the workforce and their communities post-release. Recognizing the power of the community Impact Justice has built, they will use a Spark Grant to bolster their alumni network, which will include training and professional development for the 110 graduates and counting.

A New Way of Life Reentry Project’s (ANWOL) Workforce Development and Education wing features a unique curriculum that gives formerly incarcerated women the skills they need to pursue a living-wage and obtain employment that is in line with their desired career paths. Through a Spark Grant, ANWOL will offer their already-successful curriculum in a new environment: online. To ensure that formerly incarcerated women in California and beyond truly benefit from the new medium, ANWOL will pilot their first online cohort and will also analyze any barriers students may face in accessing the online curriculum, as well as opportunities to mitigate the challenges to ensure maximum accessibility.

Within the state, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spearheads and touches many education, employment, and rehabilitative programs for folks involved in the justice system. In order to determine how efficacious the programs are, the Public Policy Institute of California’s (PPIC) Spark Grant will help fund a research report that will support a comprehensive understanding of the programs offered and the experiences of those who have gone through the programs over a five-year time period. A first-of-its-kind report, it will serve as the foundation for future analyses designed to ensure that imprisoned students receive the maximum benefit possible.

We look forward to sharing the outcomes of these multifaceted efforts as together we further educational opportunities for all justice-impacted Californians. 

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.

To sign up for our newsletter, click here.