Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Cambridge Housing Authority’s Workforce Program gives education support starting in sixth grade for kids in public housing. (Photo: Cambridge Housing Authority)

The Cambridge Housing Authority’s Workforce Program that helps youths living in public housing prepare for college or a career has received a $100,000 grant from the Cummings Foundation. The grant, to be distributed over two years, will support the program while government aid has dwindled.

The Workforce Program enrolls young public housing residents starting in the sixth grade and through high school and four years of post-secondary education. It provides education enrichment, job training and college preparation and serves about 350 students a year. Almost 90 percent of participants enroll in two or four-year colleges; 73 percent of the high school class of 2017 received a post-secondary degree within five years, according to the housing authority.

The program started in 1984. In recent years the authority established a matched-savings program to help students pay for college, and the program added alumni coaches and job development specialists to help them complete a degree once they are enrolled.

With government aid for public housing shrinking, the Workforce Program has sought to bring in more private financial support, CHA resident services director John Lindamood said. “This grant allows us to leverage other dollars and become less dependent on CHA for support,” Lindamood said. Program spokesperson Kambiz Maali said the program aims to get 60 percent of its budget from private sources. CHA was one of 140 programs in eastern Massachusetts that won a total of $25 million in grants from the Cummings Foundation this year. The foundation, based in Woburn, is a family charity that has given its largest donations to a Tufts University veterinary school that bears the family’s name.

The Workforce Program launched an endowment campaign last fall that could help the program expand, Maali said. The first donor has given $250,000 and promised to match another $250,000 in donations after the program reaches a total of $500,000 in gifts. Maali said the endowment total now stands at $600,000.