The California-based Taco Bell Foundation for Teens has made an unprecedented, $30 million commitment to the Atlanta-based Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) with a goal of raising the national graduation rate by 13 percent.
The grant is the largest donation the foundation has made to any one organization and the largest gift BGCA has received in its 108-year history.
The partnership, which will span five years and support local chapters throughout the nation and international military bases, focuses on high school completion and post-secondary exploration. The goal is to have all participants graduate from high school and be prepared for post-secondary opportunities.
“Boys & Girls Clubs of America is the largest teen serving organization with a footprint similar to ours, and it only makes sense for us to partner to ensure many more teens across the nation are empowered to reach their full potential.” Brian Niccol, president of Taco Bell and chairman of the Foundation said in a statement.
The joint program, Graduate for Más, will be implemented in 4,000 Boys & Girls Clubs. The foundation estimates that over the course of five years, the program will serve 500,000 youth.
Dr. Damon Williams, BGCA’s senior vice president and chief educational and youth development officer, will serve as point person on this project.
According to Jim Clark, president of BGCA, that reach will result in an improvement in national graduation rates by 13 percent, resulting in a $14 billion economic impact.
Participants will be exposed to high school workshops and coaching, an online teen support program, and community and local mentors. The program will also focus on experiential learning, with visits to two-year colleges, four-year colleges and trade schools. Teens will also receive career preparation and post-secondary course planning.
Additionally, the Graduate for Más program will provide BGCA youth with an $83 million post secondary scholarship fund to help reduce financial barriers. BGCA envisions that this new program will increase their membership from around 570,000 young people to 700,000, attracting a larger teen population.
The partnership between the Taco Bell Foundation and BGCA first began in 1996. Taco Bell has been a supporter of the organization’s national clubs for close to 20 years.
“Taco Bell is the ideal partner when it comes to teen programming,” said BGCA President Jim Clark. “They are in the communities where teens live, work and play; they are relevant to today’s youth, and they truly understand how to engage them.”
The national high school graduation rate was 78 percent in 2013, the highest it has been in three decades, according to the Department of Education. There remains a serious graduation rate gap between African American, Latino and Native American youth and their White and Asian counterparts. The graduation rates for African American students is currently 57 percent, Latinos, 58 percent and Native Americans 52 percent, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education.
“It is clear that there is a gap between graduation expectations and achievement among teens,” said Clark. “Through the continued support and unwavering commitment from the Taco Bell Foundation, this partnership will allow us to empower our nation’s young people with the tools, resources and mentors to help them on their path to a great future.”
The Taco Bell Foundation for Teens was established in 1992, and is the philanthropic arm of Taco Bell chain restaurants. The Foundation’s focus is to help teens succeed. Programs for teens, focus on education, leadership, mentoring, arts, as well as workforce readiness.
The Foundation’s assets totaled $10 million and total giving was $5 million in 2013. Funding is raised through Taco Bell customers, franchisees, employees and vendor partners, but the majority of the annual operating costs for the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens are funded by Taco Bell Corp.