Higher Achievement expanded to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2012, as part of a city-wide initiative focused on middle school mentoring. With generous support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Heinz Endowments, Grable Foundation, and United Way, our work began in two of the most disenfranchised neighborhoods in the city: the Hill District and Homewood. Over the years, we expanded to a third Center in the South Side. However, we struggled to get a strong enough foothold in the community – and to serve a meaningful number of middle school scholars. Last year, we made a strategic decision to pursue a partnership to serve more students to meet the tremendous need and opportunity in Pittsburgh.
While we have explored merger opportunities with five organizations since November 2019 and entered detailed, multi-stage conversations with two organizations, this summer, we learned that neither of those will move forward. While we committed to fully funding the first year of Higher Achievement’s operations, the economic uncertainty and COVID-19 realities have forced our potential partners to focus on their core operations. This is completely understandable, and at the same time, disappointing.
This means that we are in the process of closing our Pittsburgh office by August 31, 2020. For everyone who championed our mission in Pittsburgh, we are grateful. Hundreds of scholars have benefitted from Higher Achievement since 2012, and they are better equipped for success in high school and beyond, as a result.
We are taking the following next steps:
- Scholars: Consulting with each of the scholars and families who are currently active with us, understanding their needs, and doing our best to match them with other out-of-school time programs.
- Staff: Providing our staff a smooth runway to post Higher Achievement by reviewing resumes, holding informational interviews, and opening up connections to possible job opportunities.
- Resources: Determining if any of our partners would benefit from access to our curricula and mentor/staff training online resources.
- Communication: Talking with our current funders, partners, mentors about our plans – offering options to adjust multi-year funding commitments, alternative volunteer opportunities, and more.
We are writing a brief case study to share our experiences of our merger consideration process, to benefit the larger nonprofit and philanthropic efforts intended to advance strategic partnerships.
Going forward, Higher Achievement will focus on the mid-Atlantic, from Baltimore through Richmond. We continue to expand to serve more scholars in this region, in line with our strategic focus outlined as Higher Achievement 2.0.