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Black Men Coalition of Dane County Joins Forces with eCornell to Launch Groundbreaking Education Program

Many individuals in our community, especially those who are unemployed, underemployed, or formerly incarcerated, face significant barriers to improving their skills and securing stable, well-paying jobs. These barriers contribute to a persistent cycle of poverty and limited opportunities, hindering both personal and community growth.

In response to this pressing issue, Black Men Coalition of Dane County (BMC) is engaging in a transformative collaboration with eCornell, the online learning platform of Ithaca, NY-based Cornell University, aimed at breaking these barriers and fostering social and economic advancement. This groundbreaking initiative will provide hundreds of learners from low-income backgrounds with free access to online professional certificate programs annually, paving the way for a brighter future.

Addressing a Need

This collaboration aims to uplift underserved and vulnerable individuals by offering them the tools they need to succeed. Designed by Cornell’s Ivy League faculty, participants will benefit from eCornell’s prestigious certificate programs by learning in-demand skills across a diverse array of fields, opening the door for social and economic growth. Typically priced at $3,900, these courses are being offered for free thanks to support from Ascendium Education Group and Diane Endres Ballweg, philanthropist and lifelong educator. By empowering individuals with education and skills, BMC helps them break the poverty-prison cycle and become valued contributors to their communities.

"In Dane County, we encounter many individuals who are eager to advance but encounter obstacles in developing their skills, which can make it challenging to land good jobs or advance within their companies," says BMC President Corey Marionneaux. "Providing free access to these courses helps eliminate financial and other barriers, creating a path to success full of hope, empowerment, value and ultimately a hand up for those looking to earn a better living wage.”

Supporting the Journey

Co-funding of this initiative reflects a shared commitment to supporting underrepresented communities. The goal is to provide new growth opportunities for those ready to advance through postsecondary education. Removing the financial burden and providing essential resources such as classroom space, computers, internet access, and onsite support ensures that learners can focus on their education and successfully complete their programs.

Impact and Vision

Through these opportunities, BMC helps vulnerable individuals in Dane County feel a sense of belonging, advance in their careers, and become integral parts of their communities. Of the 100+ individuals who have participated in BMC programming to date, 78% have been Black men ages 16 to 55. Previous participants in eCornell certificate programs have reported increased confidence, improved job performance, and valuable skill application.

This partnership underscores BMC’s dedication to fostering the social and emotional growth of individuals and supporting their career advancement. By offering a lifeline to those in need, BMC and its collaborators are making a tangible difference in the community.

Program Details

  • Certificate Programs Available: Business Analytics, Data Science Essentials, Human Resources Essentials, Leadership Essentials, Accounting, Blockchain Essentials, Business Law, Business Statistics, Digital Marketing, Project Management, HR Analytics, Real Estate Property Management, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for HR, Intrapreneurship, Women in Leadership, Executive Women in Leadership, Cybersecurity, Business Management in STEM, Compliance Systems, Human Resources Management, Food & Beverage Management.
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    - Completion of high school or possession of a GED diploma.
    - Proficiency in reading, writing, and speaking English.
    - Commitment to program completion.
    - Dane County resident.
    - Annual salary below $70,000.
  • Expected Outcomes:
    - Annual enrollment of over 500 individuals who are unemployed, underemployed, and/or formerly incarcerated.
    - Positive impact on learners' lives.

About Black Men Coalition of Dane County:

Black Men Coalition is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded by Black men who want to make a positive impact on their community. Within the organization, we provide an array of services including community involvement, mentorship, youth sports, education, employment skill-building and placement, and supported employment housing. We assist individuals with a hand up in stabilizing their families and being productive members of society. Our goal is to provide a system that works outside of the broken system; to support those who are working toward a better future but are still falling through the cracks because they are often overlooked. To learn more and get involved, visit

About eCornell:

As Cornell University’s external education unit, eCornell delivers professional certificate courses to individuals and organizations around the world. Courses are personally developed by Cornell faculty with expertise in a wide range of topics, including hospitality, leadership and management, marketing, human resources, AI, and data analytics. Participants learn in an interactive, small cohort format to gain skills they can apply immediately.

About Ascendium:

Ascendium Education Group is committed to making education and training beyond high school a reality for more people. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, we fund initiatives across the U.S. that help learners from low-income backgrounds achieve upward mobility; provide student and employee success solutions to colleges and businesses; invest in education-focused innovations to improve learner outcomes; and provide information, tools and counseling to help millions of borrowers successfully repay their federal student loans. While we have many roles, we have one goal — elevating opportunity by creating a world where everyone can rise to their highest potential. To learn more, visit

About Diane Endres Ballweg:

Education and job training are the foundation for career success, and as a lifelong teacher and learner, this is a focused priority for Diane's community involvement and philanthropy. She is a member of 20 non-profit boards, gives annual scholarships to a variety of schools, and continues to teach unique programs and sessions, even in "retirement." As a fourth-generation family business owner, she also realizes the stability and security that a good job can provide, not just to the employee, but to families and the next generation. And being a female pilot in a very male-dominated industry, she also realizes the value of support, confidence, and opportunity provided by others that inspire hope for a brighter future for all. The BMC mission aligns with these goals.