Staff Blog

This is a space where Foundation staff share their thoughts and musings on giving and community:

The Curtis Fund Pilots Credentials of Value Program

Posted by: Joyce Cellars on 11/15/2019

For 110 years, the Curtis Fund—created by Vermont philanthropist Emma Eliza Curtis—has grown her generous initial bequest of $120,000 to an endowment of over $30 million. Since its inception, the Curtis Fund (a supporting organization of the Vermont Community Foundation since 2019) has helped more than 10,000 men and women realize their educational and vocational goals. Every year, we grant scholarships to 450-500 Vermonters, and more than 80% of recipients are first in their families to attend college.

Curtis Fund scholarships can have a profound impact. Among our scholarship recipients, 53% of the “traditional” students (recent high school grads) and 78% of the adult learners completed a two- or four-year degree in four years or less. In contrast, and within the same population we serve—people facing barriers, financial and otherwise, to accessing post-secondary education—the general nationwide college completion rate is only 29%.

Emma Curtis’ original—and extraordinary—legacy was to aid “young men and women to obtain a common school or university education, or both, or to learn a trade, handicraft, business, or profession, or to obtain instruction in domestic science, or other useful knowledge, provided that only those persons be aided who … are in need of the same.” For more than a century, the Curtis Fund has been sponsoring scholarships for two- and four-year degrees; now, we also want to fund relevant training for those entering the skilled workforce without attending college.

Last year, the Curtis Fund—thanks to the help of VSAC, plus a generous four-year seed grant of $100,000 from our board chair, Joe Boutin, and his wife, Dale—piloted a new program for students seeking certificates or credentials in “promising careers” identified by the J. Warren & Lois McClure Foundation and the Vermont Department of Labor as highly beneficial to job applicants and to potential employers. Vermonters of all ages, life experiences, personal skills, and educational histories now have another promising path to success.

I’m excited to share the highlights from the first year of our pilot Credentials of Value program. A total of 16 learners, representing a gender-diverse group as well as eight of Vermont’s 14 counties, received an average award of $1,200. They certainly put the grants to very good use:

  • 50% are now working in fields related to the credentials they earned, or are on paths to earning the credentials.
  • 12.5% completed their training and are seeking work in fields related to their credentials.
  • 37.5% decided to continue their education to become even more qualified for promising careers in Vermont.

The fields of study for these learners are varied, but all of them are based on higher-paying, high-demand jobs Vermont employers need to fill. These positions include: welding, commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), early childhood education, licensed nursing assistant (LNA), paramedic, computer support specialist, teaching, automotive/diesel technology, bookkeeping, and paralegal work.

To find out more about the Curtis Fund, please visit our website.

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