Mission and History
Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. Higher Achievement seeks to build a world where every child’s promise and potential is realized, regardless of circumstances.
Higher Achievement closes the opportunity gap during the pivotal middle school years. By leveraging the power of communities, Higher Achievement’s proven model provides a rigorous year-round learning environment, caring role models, and a culture of high expectations, resulting in college-bound scholars with the character, confidence, and skills to succeed.
By 2030, all students in Higher Achievement cities will graduate from high school, ready for college.
Founded by a teacher, Greg Gannon, at Gonzaga College High School in DC
Won “Volunteer Action” Award from President Reagan
May 5th proclaimed “Higher Achievement Day” in Washington DC; New York Times article published about HAP
Named “Point of the Light” by President Bush
Reorganized as a national demonstration model for academic enrichment; opened first center in this new model, with 30 students in Mount Pleasant, DC
Won Washington Post Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management
Expanded to Alexandria, VA; Founder Greg Gannon passes away; bought DC metro building (our first building outside of Gonzaga)
Launched official national office dedicated to replacating and disseminating best practices
Expanded to Baltimore, MD; won “Coming Up Taller” Award from First Lady, Michelle Obama
Expanded to Richmond, VA; won “Afterschool Innovator” Award from MetLife
Expanded to Pittsburgh, PA
Published landmark randomized impact study by MDRC; Higher Achievement launched new strategic plan; hosted first multi-city Olympics of the Mind
National office headquarters opens in Adams Morgan with the help of $700,000 in pro bono support; Higher Achievement awarded Department of Education i3 grant to fuel expansion
Higher Achievement was founded in 1975 by Greg Gannon, a teacher at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC. Gannon believed the program would address a serious and underappreciated community problem: the gap in opportunity between his Gonzaga students and the youth in the housing project across the street from the school. He founded Higher Achievement to create learning opportunities for underserved youth — so they could have equal access to success, both in school and beyond.
Higher Achievement incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in 1985. In 1999, it reorganized as an outcomes-based model for high-level academic achievement during out-of-school time.
In 2006, with grants from Atlantic Philanthropies, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the William T. Grant Foundation, Higher Achievement launched the first longitudinal, randomized study of an out-of-school time program. Results from the study prompted additional investments in Higher Achievement’s expansion. In 2009, Higher Achievement opened achievement centers in Baltimore, MD, followed by centers in Richmond, VA, in 2011 and Pittsburgh, PA, in 2012.
Over the past 35 years, Higher Achievement has worked with more than 10,000 youth in the DC Metro area. On average, 95 percent of Higher Achievement scholars advance to top academic high schools and 93 percent go on to college. Scholars who complete the program, on average, improve their GPAs at least one letter, graduate with a B average, show improved attendance, and demonstrate improved attitudes and behaviors toward their peers, adults, and their own learning. The organization has received extraordinary national and local recognition for its work.