October 12, 2010
Acknowledging the breakthrough educational opportunity program
resulting from one of the University’s important strategic
partnerships, the Oak
Foundation has awarded the New York City Department of Homeless
Services a three-year $344,200 grant to support a variety of
initiatives to help St. John’s Advantage Academy students and
graduates change their lives.
The Oak Foundation is comprised of a group of charitable and
philanthropic organizations committed to addressing issues of
global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that
have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. A key focus
is on the prevention of homelessness through sustained solutions
that improve the economic and social well being of the most
marginalized in society.
“Through the generosity of the Oak Foundation, Advantage Academy
students will now benefit from increased employment services,
leadership training and short-term financial assistance that will
play a monumental role in helping our clients move back to
self-sufficiency,” said Seth Diamond, Commissioner, Department
of Homeless Services.
St. John’s Advantage Academy was established in 2009 as an
innovative partnership between St. John’s and the New York City
Department of Homeless Services. Housed within the University’s
College of Professional Studies, the Academy enables qualified
individuals from homeless and formerly homeless single parent
families to gain the skills and confidence necessary to escape the
scourge of poverty and homelessness through education and
counseling. It serves as a paradigm for a major goal of the Vincentian Institute for
Social Action (VISA) to develop strong strategic partnerships
to serve those most disadvantaged.
“Our faculty, particularly our departmental chairs, continues to
work with extraordinary commitment to provide Academy students with
academic challenges, guidance and support,” said
Kathleen Vouté MacDonald, Ed.D., Dean of the College of
Professional Studies. “It is the opportunity to build upon this
unique educational dynamic that makes the Oak Foundation grant so
valuable and affirming for us.”
The Oak Foundation grant awarded to DHS for the St. John’s
Advantage Academy will support a major initiative to help students
find viable employment opportunities upon graduation. Specifically,
the grant will allow the University to provide an employment
specialist to work exclusively and individually with Academy
students and graduates to build resumes, write cover letters, hone
interview skills and conduct targeted job searches.
The grant will also include funding for retreats featuring seminars
and training programs with an emphasis upon team-building,
leadership and professional skills development. The goals are to
improve self-image, develop confidence and promote camaraderie and
mutual support among Advantage Academy students.
Other benefits of the Oak Foundation grant include utilizing a
web-based assessment tool and developing an effective outcomes
tracking system. Together, the University and DHS will work to
achieve specific employment goals for Advantage Academy graduates
that include ensuring that 75 percent find employment or
matriculate into a four-year degree program, with 70 percent of
graduates maintaining their academic career or remaining employed
after twelve months of graduation from the program.
“The University is particularly grateful that the Oak Foundation
and the New York City Department of Homeless Services have
expressed such strong and tangible support for the St. John’s
Advantage Academy,” said Rev.
James J. Maher, C.M., Vice President for Student Affairs and
Executive Director of VISA.
“We are excited by this opportunity,” he continued. “It will create
a lasting benefit for our students and their families, and we are
fully confident that we will meet the goals set forth in the grant.
This award also ensures that the Academy will continue to serve as
a model of Vincentian service with sustainable impact upon those
most in need.”