Ascendium Awards $200,000 to Madison Area Nonprofits Working for Racial Justice

June 25, 2020

Madison, WI — Four Madison-area nonprofit organizations working to advance racial justice will receive $50,000 each from Ascendium Education Group.

Earlier this month, Ascendium's leaders asked its more than 250 employees to nominate Madison-based nonprofits that are providing an identifiable and meaningful response to address racial justice. Employees responded, nominating 15 organizations, and the top four were selected. The awardees are:

The Foundation for Black Women's Wellness, which works to eliminate health disparities and other barriers impacting the lives of Black women and girls through education, outreach, advocacy, support circles and partnerships;

Freedom Inc., a nonprofit organization that works with low- to no-income communities of color to achieve social justice through coupling direct services with leadership development and community organizing;

Urban Triage, which aims to empower Black families and children by developing and managing life-changing programming and mobilizing community resources to distribute them to those most in need; and

YWCA of Madison, which works to advance race and gender equity to create a more inclusive community; helps people with job training and transportation; and supports women and families in housing and shelter.

All four organizations provide direct service to the community and lead broader community awareness and education efforts on racial and social justice.

Muneer Afifi, a supervisor of student loan outreach for Ascendium, was one of the employees submitting nominations. He said the donations send an important message to Ascendium’s employees, customers and communities.

“We’re part of the same community,” he said. “This is Ascendium saying we want our community to be strong."

Afifi became aware of Urban Triage because the organization has been active in public protests around racial justice in Madison, but he nominated the nonprofit for additional reasons.
“They are a nonprofit that works with the Madison Metropolitan School District, they receive United Way support and they’ve been collaborating with a group of 15 area Black service providers to support communities of color through the current crisis,” he wrote. "Choosing Urban Triage makes a statement. They are not afraid to say Black Lives Matter. A donation from Ascendium is a strong message that hate and racism have no place in our company or community."

Ascendium’s philanthropy remains nationally focused on reducing or eliminating institutional and systemic barriers for underrepresented postsecondary education learners so they can achieve their academic and career goals. At the same time, Ascendium has made select investments in the communities where it has offices. These include providing $75,000 to the United Way of Dane County for COVID-19 support to local nonprofits and $10 million toward construction of Madison College’s new Goodman South campus. Ascendium employees also have been generous with their time and dollars, supporting adopted organizations in local communities through the Ascendium Cares giving program.

“Now more than ever, education is the single most effective way to enhance upward social mobility, which is an essential step towards equity and inclusion,” said Richard D. George, Ascendium’s chairman, president and chief executive officer in a statement. “Absent hope for opportunity, the underlying currents that foster racism and violence are given the power that drives crisis.”

George continued by saying that Ascendium wanted to do more than provide a public statement about the need for change regarding racial justice. “We wanted to contribute to change by supporting those organizations in our community that are already doing great work in that regard,” he said.