A homegrown education innovation network announced Wednesday it was awarded a $145,000 grant to expand its programming across the nation, courtesy of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
The Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program began in the Blue Valley School District in 2009 and is now expanded to 33 programs encompassing 69 school districts in 11 states, said Corey Mohn, CAPS executive director. To instill entrepreneurial thinking in youth and bolster talent pipelines, the program offers college credit to juniors and seniors for completing project-based learning activities.
“We continue to believe that the direction of education is evolving to something that is much more authentic, professional and entrepreneurial,” Mohn said. “We’re not going to rest until we maximize our opportunity to make an impact on young people.”
Partnering with the Kauffman Foundation is a natural fit for the program, Mohn said.
“We’re excited about this opportunity and we’re hopeful of what this will mean for the future of CAPS — not just to Kansas City but the whole country,” he said. “In Kansas City, the Kauffman Foundation is the gold standard of providing investment for entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial ideas. It’s awesome to have partners in the community that believe in what we’re doing.”
The foundation has supported the CAPS network through mentorship, input and guidance since the program’s inception in 2009, Mohn said. Referring to the grant as a “massive win,” Mohn said it marks the first time the CAPS program has received capital.
With a strong belief in the power of entrepreneurship and education, representatives at the Kauffman Foundation are excited to bring entrepreneurial thinking to youth all across the nation, said Erin Jenkins, program officer at the foundation.
“This grant will help build the CAPS network and a rich community of practice that supports the development of 21st-century knowledge and skills,” Jenkins said in a release.
The grant is expected to go toward hiring a national network coordinator, strengthening business partner relationships and developing content modules.
“Business and community partners are the lifeblood of CAPS,” Mohn said. “For us to make maximum impact on those relationships, we need to make the connectivity between partners and the CAPS programs as easy as possible.”
With a network coordinator, the national consortium of innovation education will be able to more rapidly grow to more school districts, Mohn added.
“In our minds, it’s not as much about a numbers game of how many programs we have,” he said. “We’ve seen pretty regular and significant growth, in terms of new areas of the country. I think that that trend is going to continue.”
In addition to Blue Valley School district, the Kansas City metro is also home to Northland CAPS, serving students in seven school districts in Clay and Platte counties. In June, the program announced the addition of Center School District and Southland CAPS, which nearly doubled the network’s impact in Kansas and Missouri, serving about 4,000 students.