The Center for Nonprofit Excellence in Louisville recently announced Kentucky Community and Technical College Systems (KCTCS) Ready to Work/Work and Learn team and the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence (KCADV) will receive the 2015 Art of Excellence in Collaboration at the Pyramid Awards of Excellence.

In 2014, a partnership was launched that integrates KCADVs economic empowerment services with the KCTCS Ready to Work (RTW) program. The goal was for the organizations to work together to address non-academic issues (poverty, domestic violence, transportation, etc.) that prevent students from completing a degree. An initial evaluation revealed that 69 percent of RTW student had experienced domestic violence.

For KCTCS, the project is a retention strategy to help students complete their degrees. The students become financially aware, save for college through a matching independent development account (IDA) and reduce the amount they have to borrow for their education. The partnership enables KCADV to improve access to those who need domestic violence services, but may not access services at one of its member shelters.

This financial empowerment collaboration with KCADV has provided new services and opportunities for our most vulnerable student populationlow-income parents working toward a better life for their families through education and family sustaining wages, said Shauna King-Simms, KCTCS system director of college and career transitions. It was no surprise to learn that 69 percent of those surveyed experienced domestic violence in their lifetime, and it is rewarding to see these families improving their stability through matched savings accounts, credit coaching and a fundamental understanding of the importance of their financial resume as they build their career path.

Launch year results were impressive.
551 students attended financial education workshops, 284 received one/one credit counseling.
279 students reviewed credit reports with a trained advocate and established a credit action plan.
39 improved their credit scores.
107 students opened IDAs and saved a total of $32,000, and 40 students have used their savings for tuition, fees and supplies with purchases totaling $72,000. Two students have already completed their associate degrees and moved onto four-year programs.

We are hopeful this collaborative model will inspire policy decisions and similar efforts in other states, KCADV project director Mary ODoherty said. We believe this project demonstrates effective strategies for improving the likelihood that low-income students especially those with a history of domestic violence will complete their educations.

The award will be presented at the 15th Annual Nonprofit Leadership Conference and Awards Luncheon on Oct. 6 in Louisville.