By: Stephanie Regagnon, Founder, Ava’s Grace
Ava’s Grace Scholarship Foundation was born six years ago to give hope to children whose lives have been impacted by the incarceration of one of their parents. It rose up from deep pain my family endured to provide a path towards a brighter future for others. This May, we were thrilled and proud to celebrate the graduation of our first two scholars – McKenzie Lockett from Mizzou, my own alma mater, and Cari Hill from William Jewell College. These young women embody the hope Ava’s Grace offers many more young people through the gift of education.
After six years of hard work, we realized that by collaborating with others, we could have much greater impact. This spring, we officially united with Connections to Success, coming together to expand its holistic program providing hope, resources and a plan in making an impact on the next generation. With aligned missions and shared values, Connections to Success and Ava’s Grace are well-positioned to collaborate, bringing additional education resources to families through the Connections to Success evidence-based model for improving children’s futures.
The decision to bring Ava’s Grace into the Connections to Success family of programs made sense, both from an organizational standpoint and as way to provide a wider array of services with more depth for a segment of our community at disproportionate risk for incarceration. Children with parents who have been incarcerated are at far greater risk of becoming incarcerated in their lifetimes than other children. Our combined resources will allow us to serve the entire family – from young people to parents – through a holistic model. By combining our strengths, our organizations can break this vicious cycle and make a bigger impact.
Connections to Success has been serving people transitioning from generational poverty, incarceration, domestic violence, and other challenging situations for more than 15 years through its proven Pathways to Success model. By helping participants complete a life plan through personal goal setting, this model reinforces education as a key component to preventing the next generation from repeating the cycle of incarceration.
Uniting Ava’s Grace with Connections to Success will offer participants more resources, increasing each individual’s potential for success. Young people who are the focus of Ava’s Grace support today now will have access to expanded mentoring and other resources through Connections to Success, such as professional clothing offered by Dress for Success. This can prepare them for life beyond higher education and create momentum for a fruitful and fulfilling future.
Ava’s Grace Scholarship Foundation is filled with gratitude to all those who have contributed to our growth to this point; with humility at the opportunity to work with and serve with such an amazing organization; and with hope as we look forward to improving many futures as a united organization.