Northwestern Mutual Foundation donates $1.7 million to literacy programs

Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual is pouring $1.7 million into education programs in Milwaukee with a goal of preparing students to read proficiently.

Northwestern Mutual aims to help students hit third grade reading proficiency as more than 84 percent of Milwaukee third-graders struggle to be proficient in reading, according to a statistic the company cited from a 2014 “Milwaukee Succeeds Milestone Report.”

Northwestern Mutual last year honed an education strategy by looking to national research, sponsoring research on evidence-based programs, taking part in pilot programs and consulting advisory councils among others. The company, which is distributing the funds through its foundation, works with area community groups and nonprofit organizations to create effective and scalable education and training models to improve literacy. About half of the $1.7 million will back community collaborations and programs, such as Transformative Reading Instruction, which is conducted in partnership with Milwaukee Succeeds and coaches teachers on reading instruction strategies.

“We want to help the community come together to ensure the success of our future leaders,” John Schlifske, chairman and chief executive officer of Northwestern Mutual and co-chair of Milwaukee Succeeds, said in a press release. “We believe our commitment to education, both through time and financial support, will build measurable results that will improve education in Milwaukee.”

Grant funding will primarily benefit organizations working in Amani, Metcalfe Park and Muskego Way neighborhoods in Milwaukee – the three neighborhoods at the center of Northwestern Mutual’s focus. The areas are also part of the federal Building Neighborhood Capacity Program.

Additionally, grant dollars will support mentoring programs that help students living and studying in Amani, Metcalfe Park and Muskego Way neighborhoods. Northwestern Mutual employees often volunteer to mentor students as part of the company’s philanthropic focus on education.

Grant recipients, who will need to demonstrate the effectiveness of their programming, include: Arts@Large, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, City Year, COA Youth & Family Centers, First Stage Milwaukee, Marquette University, Milwaukee College Preparatory School, Milwaukee Public Library Foundation, Next Door Foundation, PAVE, Penfield Children’s Center, Schools That Can Milwaukee Inc., SHARP Literacy Inc., St. Marcus Lutheran School, Teach for America, Urban Day School, Milwaukee Succeeds, Carver 5-in-1 Collaborative, Teachtown, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee, Notre Dame Middle School, and Unity in Motion.

Funding is divided into a set of categories – program support, community collaboration and mentoring.

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