Just-A-Start Corporation Gets $500K Grant, Largest Gift Ever

March 23, 2018 — Just-A-Start Corporation, a Cambridge-based nonprofit community development corporation, recently announced it received a $500,000 grant from ECMC Foundation, the largest philanthropic commitment it has received in the 50 years since it was established.

Just-A-Start Corporation said the grant will support the first two years of a new Information Technology (IT) Careers Program, a tuition-free, nine month program that trains under-resourced adults for the skills needed to begin a sustaining career in the IT industry.

“I am so grateful for ECMC Foundation’s outstanding commitment to the IT Careers Program, and I am extremely proud of this great achievement for Just-A-Start,” said Deborah Ruhe, executive director of Just-A-Start. “This is the largest private grant Just-A-Start has ever received, and it will allow us to serve an even larger number of under-resourced adults as they work toward their goals of economic stability and career growth.”

The grant will support the activities of the IT Careers Program, launched two months ago, which blends classroom learning of technical skills with on-the-job training. While in the program, students will earn college credits, become certified in CompTIA+, and benefit from comprehensive career counseling that includes post-program support.

Modeled after Just-A-Start’s Biomedical Careers Program, now in its 26th year of success, the new program features a dual-customer model that benefits both jobseekers and local employers by training a well-qualified, diverse, and mature workforce of program graduates.

“We are excited to partner with Just-A-Start to unlock economic opportunity for these students,” said Jennifer Zeisler, senior program director of career readiness at ECMC Foundation. “The IT Careers Program is rigorous and relevant, and will help underserved adults gain access to skills-based careers with the necessary support to succeed.”

The development of the IT Careers Program was supported by other corporate funders, including JP Morgan Chase, Google, and Capital One.

“The development of new programs often requires philanthropic support before public sector funding can be secured,” Ruhe explained. “The leadership of the private sector is essential to the development of pathways to sustainable careers for low income and immigrant communities.”

Established in 1971, Just-A-Start had one service offering, a Summer Youth Enrichment program. Five years later it provided affordable rental options in existing buildings, and five years after that began creating affordable rental housing. It launched a biomedical career training program in 1992, and later that decade created Career Connections, with provides mentoring, job placement, and support for high-risk students.

Two years ago, a 10-alarm fire heavily damaged several buildings in Cambridge owned and managed by Just-A-Start. Those structures were razed and rebuilt.

Today, Just-A-Start operates primarily in Cambridge, but also serves surrounding communities, and focuses on three major program activities for the benefit of low- and moderate-income people: the stabilization of occupied housing, education/training/placement, and the development and operation of affordable housing.