New Project Announced to Boost Graduation Rates in Charlotte-Mecklenburg

The CMS Investment Study Group, a coalition of foundation and community leaders working to explore the most effective role for philanthropy in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), has announced the creation of a new initiative designed to boost graduation rates in the region.

The initiative, Project L.I.F.T. (Leadership and Investment for Transformation), aims to provide $55 million in grants over five years to support additional services and educational enhancements for students in the West Charlotte corridor, defined as West Charlotte High School and the middle and elementary schools that feed into it. The project will support efforts to enhance teacher and school leadership quality; increase learning time, including extended day, out-of-school-time, and pre-kindergarten programs; improve access to technology; and integrate policy changes that provide school leadership with more freedom. It will also conduct an extensive outreach program to community and business leaders, faith communities, and others to ensure that students get the most out of their educational opportunities.

To date, seven family and corporate foundations have committed a total of $40.5 million in support of the project's goals. The pledges by the Leon Levine, C.D. Spangler, Duke Energy, Wells Fargo, and Belk foundations as well as the Bank of America Charitable Foundation and the Foundation for the Carolinas are conditional and will not be considered commitments until the $55 million goal has been reached.

"We believe this approach, combined with our exceptional educational leadership and strong community partnerships, will make a sustainable impact in student achievement," said Duke Energy Foundation president Richard "Stick" Williams, who co-chaired the group. "While Project L.I.F.T. will be something truly innovative and special that makes the most sense for our community, its outcomes will serve to address what is clearly a broader, national issue."