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Announcing: Second Phase of Aspen Postsecondary Success for Parents Initiative

New Experts Join Aspen Institute Initiative Advancing Postsecondary Success for Student Parents

February 06, 2020

Washington, DC – The Aspen Postsecondary Success for Parents (PSP) Initiative, a partnership between the Aspen Institute policy program Ascend at the Aspen Institute, Imaginable Futures, a venture of The Omidyar Group, and the ECMC Foundation is entering an accelerated second phase to improve outcomes for students who are raising children. 

The PSP Initiative, which raises awareness about student parents and shares recommendations to increase their postsecondary success, has selected three dynamic groups of leaders – student parents as Parent Advisors, policy and practice experts as National Advisors, and college presidents and chancellors as the Postsecondary Leader’s Circle for Student Parent Success – to inform, advance, and build upon the recommendations and best practices identified in the first phase through 2021.  

“With this new role as a Parent Advisor, I have been given a seat at the table,” said Yoslin Amaya Hernandez, student intern at the Maryland General Assembly, Generation Hope Scholar, and Parent Advisor. “I have been handed the mic so institutions and organizations can listen to what changes need to be made. Student parents will be behind the action in helping organizations and institutions implement these changes: we will be telling them what we need.” 

Centered on a two-generation (2Gen) approach, which focuses on creating opportunities to address the needs of children and the adults in their lives simultaneously, the PSP Initiative is urging postsecondary leaders to identify and meet the needs of parents and their families, connect with policymakers to strengthen political will among states and regions, and bring innovative family-support models to the forefront.  

“Student parents are vital members of so many campus ecosystems, but are often overlooked,” said Aspen Institute President and CEO Dan Porterfield. “Ascend, Imaginable Futures, and ECMC Foundation’s commitment to improving the systems and structures that this population relies on is critical, and I look forward to learning what our parents and cross-sector leaders recommend as they embark on this exciting phase of work.” 

The PSP leaders will provide expert insight into three major components that are also new to the second phase:  

  • An Innovation Challenge awarding five to seven states, counties, and cities that will set such goals as a completion metric for high quality degrees and non-degree credentials for parents;  
  • A Parent Powered Solutions Fund designed and driven by the Parent Advisors to build the capacity of community-based organizations leveraging parent voice and expertise in support of postsecondary success; and 
  • A digital clearinghouse of leading models and interventions promoting best and promising practices that support parents through postsecondary completion. 

“Our partnership with Ascend has shifted the conversation about student parents from ‘What do they need?’ to ‘How can we accelerate success for you and your family?’,” said Isabelle Hau, partner at Imaginable Futures. “The recommendations we are gathering will help better serve this overlooked population that could become an engine of economic mobility for the existing and future generation. It is now clear that when student parents rise, we all rise.” 

“We are thrilled to support Ascend’s commitment to build an expansive, nationally-coordinated effort to promote and support the development of solutions that improve postsecondary success for student parents,” said Jennifer Zeisler, senior director at ECMC Foundation. “We are especially excited about how the innovative solutions generated during this phase of the PSP Initiative will help single mother students, a population that makes up almost 10 percent of all postsecondary students.”  

The eleven Parent Advisors were selected based on their expertise in the systems the PSP Initiative aims to reform. They hail from across the US – from Portland, Oregon, to New York City – and provide a wealth of knowledge about the challenges that student parents face on their postsecondary journey. From two to four-year intuitions and workforce development programs, the Parent Advisors are the Initiative’s core experts and influencers. 

The first phase featured a group of 16 Parent Advisors; three of whom will return to serve as Parent Advisors in the second phase to provide leadership and guidance to the second cohort and are noted below with organizations they are affiliated with. The second phase Parent Advisors are: 

  • Yoslin Amaya Hernandez, Generation Hope; Montgomery College, MD
  • Amber Angel, Los Angeles Valley College, CA
  • Jesus Benitez, City University of New York, NY 
  • Lynette Coney, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, FL 
  • Lesley Del Rio, Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver; 
    PelotonU, CO 
  • Drayton Jackson, Washington State
    Department of Health and Human Services, WA 
  • Rashika Lee, West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology, MI 
  • Michaela Martin, Portland State University, OR 
  • Savannah Steiger, Community Caring Collaborative, ME 
  • Ariel Ventura-Lazo, Generation Hope; 
    George Mason University, VA 
  • Waukecha Wilkerson, Project Self-Sufficiency, CA 

The National Advisors are a group of leaders moving the needle on transformational supports and partnerships with student parents. These 21 advisors come from higher education institutions and nonprofit organizations and will provide guidance on strategies and recommendations to be developed over the next two years. They are: 

  • Derek Dabrowiak, Technical College System of Georgia, GA 
  • Cathe Dykstra, Family Scholar House, KY 
  • Barbara Gault, Social Equity Strategies, DC 
  • Sara Goldrick-Rab, Temple University and The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, PA 
  • Autumn Green, The National Center for Student Parent Programs and Wellesley Centers for Women, OR 
  • Jee Hang Lee, Association of Community College Trustees, DC 
  • Adrian Haugabrook, Horizon Group at Southern New Hampshire University, NH 
  • Donna Johnson, Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, GA 
  • Martha Kanter, College Promise Campaign, DC 
  • Laura Kohn, San Diego Workforce Partnerships, CA 
  • Chastity Lord, Jeremiah Program, MN 
  • Nicole Lynn Lewis, Generation Hope, DC 
  • Kelly Middleton-Banks, National Association of Workforce Boards, DC 
  • Gloria Perez, Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, MN 
  • Kwesi Rollins, Institute for Educational Leadership, CO 
  • Michelle Rhone-Collins, LIFT, DC 
  • Marni Roosevelt, Los Angeles Valley College
    Family Resource Center, CA 
  • Sarah Saxton-Frump, PelotonU, TX 
  • Louis Soares, American Council for Education, DC 
  • Susan Warfield, University of Minnesota Student Parent Help Center, MN  
  • Amanda Winters, National Governors Association, DC 

“I continue to marvel at the outstanding network that Ascend has convened to address the opportunities and challenges relative to postsecondary success for parents,” said Adrian K. Haugabrook, executive vice president and managing director of Horizon Group at Southern New Hampshire University. “I’m honored and humbled to serve as a National Advisor and look forward to the next-level agenda we can set and lead. Parent student success is our success.” 

“Student parents are poised to reshape the educational and economic landscape for this generation and the next,” said Anne Mosle, vice president at the Aspen Institute and executive director of Ascend. “This initiative, guided by our Parent Advisors and fueled by the innovations we uncover with Imaginable Futures and the ECMC Foundation, will translate into stronger policies, a more powerful movement to support student parents, and a brighter future for many more children and families in the U.S. We believe that investing in the talent of this dynamic student population is one of the most important “under the radar” drivers to our economy. 

Ascend at the Aspen Institute is the national hub for breakthrough ideas and collaborations that move children and their parents toward educational success, economic security, and health and well-being. We embrace a commitment to racial equity and a gender lens. For more information, visit 

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit 

Imaginable Futures (IF) is a global philanthropic investment firm that believes learning has the power to unlock human potential and aspires to provide every learner with the opportunity and the tools they need to imagine, and to realize, a brighter future. By taking a systems approach to solving complex education challenges, IF works across public, private and social sectors to bring to life transformational ideas in local, national and global contexts for learners of all ages. With a deep commitment to on-the-ground partnership and co-creation with those we serve, Imaginable Futures is empowering learners, families and communities to be the changemakers of the future. Established in 2020 and managed by a global team, Imaginable Futures has invested $200 million in more than 100 partners across Africa, Latin America and the United States, as well as in India with sister organization, Omidyar Network India. Imaginable Futures is a venture of The Omidyar Group, and is founded and funded by Pierre and Pam Omidyar. Follow us at @imaginablefut and learn more at

ECMC Foundation is a Los Angeles-based, nationally focused foundation whose mission is to inspire and to facilitate improvements that affect educational outcomes—especially among underserved populations—through evidence-based innovation. It is one of several affiliates under the ECMC Group ( enterprise based in Minneapolis. ECMC Foundation makes investments in two focus areas: College Success and Career Readiness; and uses a spectrum of funding structures, including strategic grantmaking and program-related investments, to invest in both nonprofit and for-profit ventures. Working with grantees, partners and peers, ECMC Foundation’s vision is for all learners to unlock their fullest potential. For more information, visit 

Media Contact: Lindsay Broyhill 
Ascend at the Aspen Institute 
Tel: 202.721.5596 


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