Since 2015, the Steelcase Foundation has supported the Grand Rapids Urban League’s (GRUL) Sowing Opportunity Now (SON) program, a workforce-based program targeting young men of color ages 16-28. The program addresses academic, personal, and social needs, providing help to complete high school/GED, continue their post-secondary education and career training, and job placement to overcome the barriers they face and find stable employment.
The first three years of the program found overwhelming success, serving 150 young men of color, and provided a springboard for them to increase their educational opportunities, enter in career-laddering training programs, find stable housing, and secure full and part-time employment. Participants credit the program staff in their ability to help them improve their current situation, reduce barriers to personal and professional success, and get on the path to a living wage job and financial and family stability.
In July, the Urban League was awarded a second grant of $201,125 to continue its works for three additional years, serving 50 new young men each year, and providing ongoing coaching and support for its alumni. SON 2.0 will continue its six-week intensive training program (25 hours per week), and include expanded access to mentor coaches to walk alongside program participants and help them overcome the barriers they face and get on a path toward economic and family stability. Participants with 85 percent weekly participation will receive a $100 stipend, and the Urban League expects 70 percent of participants will graduate the program with positive improvements to educational, economic and personal success.
We’re excited to continue to partner with the League as it continues this important work to empower young men of color in our community. To learn more about the Urban League and its work, check out their website here.