Social Capital

Ascend visits Tulsa, an innovation space for Ascend Fellows

May 11, 2012  • Anne Mosle

“It just seemed to me that it was totally unfair that someone born into different circumstances than me didn’t have the same opportunities.” Philanthropist and businessman George Kaiser offered this insight into his giving philosophy during Ascend’s May 3 – 4 learning trip to Tulsa, where the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKKF) is based, and where Mr. Kaiser has invested in a leading edge two-generation program to move parents and their children beyond poverty: the Community Action Project’s CareerAdvance®.

Working in partnership with the George Kaiser Family Foundation is visionary leader and Ascend Fellow Steven Dow, executive director of the Community Action Project (CAP), which serves over 2,000 children through its early childhood programs. More recently, CAP has begun to serve parents, primarily mothers, of enrolled children through CareerAdvance®, which offers nursing and health information technology training and credentials. Ascend Fellows Dr. Chris King, of the Ray Marshall Center at the University of Texas-Austin, and Dr. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, of Northwestern University, are leading an evaluation of CareerAdvance®. They joined the Ascend team for the learning trip, as did Ascend Advisory Board members Andrew Gatewood, program officer at the Kresge Foundation, and Mimi Corcoran, director of the Open Society Foundations’ Special Fund for Poverty Alleviation. In addition to in-depth learning sessions with CAP’s research, economic support, data, and family support teams, we visited classrooms at one of CAP’s early childhood sites. Attendance percentage charts are prominently displayed outside classrooms to encourage healthy competition, as well as visibility about high performance expectations and measures. We also met with parents, who took time out of their busy class schedule to share opportunities and challenges in their journey through CareerAdvance®. “My five year old is really excited I’m going to school,” one mother told us. “She’s more willing to do homework if I’m doing it, too.”

As an Aspen Institute working mother, visiting with the children – energized and ready to learn – it reminded me of my daughter’s first day at her brand-new Franklin Montessori school in Washington, DC. All of our children deserve the very best start – it is the most important investment we can make as parents and as a country. See photos from our visit above and to learn more about Tulsa’s Community Action Project, visit the website.