Baltimore-based Innovation Work and Per Scholas were awarded the 2022 Neighborhood Builders grant from Bank of America. The grant will provide $200,000 in unrestricted funds to the organizations, which provide Baltimoreans with economic mobility. (Photo Courtesy of Innovation Works)

By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member,
msayles@afro.com

Bank of America recently awarded two local organizations with a $200,000 multi-year award. Baltimore-based Innovation Works and Per Scholas were the recipients of the 2022 Neighborhood Builders grant for their efforts to provide greater Maryland community members with equitable access to workforce development and job training. 

Aside from the capital, the nonprofits’ executive directors will receive leadership training from Bank of America on financial sustainability, human resource development and strategic storytelling, among other topics to bolster their projects..

“Organizations like Per Scholas and Innovation Works are the backbone of our local community. They work closely with individuals, entrepreneurs and community members to understand obstacles and develop programs and services that help eliminate the barriers to economic mobility,” said Janet Currie, president of Bank of America in Greater Maryland. “It’s important that we direct capital and the necessary resources and training to help position these nonprofits for long-term success as they continue to make a positive impact.” 

Founded in 1995, Per Scholas has more than 20 locations across the United States. In Baltimore, the nonprofit offers free technology training to community members at its center in Little Italy.

Per Scholas’ courses allow residents to gain information technology support certifications, cybersecurity training and software engineer and cloud career preparation. The classes are available in remote, hybrid and in-person formats.. 

In 2023, the organization will support 150 aspiring technology professionals. 

“Being named a Neighborhood Builder grantee is incredibly humbling and will enable Per Scholas to continue to advance economic mobility right here in Charm City,” said Jessica Diaz Council, managing director of Per Scholas in Baltimore. “Our graduates go on to earn three times their pre-training wage, increasing opportunity in the city we love.” 

Innovation Works, founded in 2017, seeks to close Baltimore’s neighborhood and racial wealth gap by collaborating with local entrepreneurs who are launching social enterprises to generate more sustainable economies in the city’s disinvested neighborhoods. 

By 2029, the organization hopes to launch 250 social enterprises, employ 5,000 people and acquire $100 million in capital for entrepreneurs. 

“Much of this grant is about helping to grow the leaders of the organization, which for us, is an odd situation to be in because we are an intermediary organization that supports other leaders with the work that we do,” said Jay Nwachu, president and CEO of Innovation Works. “For us to be invested in and for Bank of America to recognize that we also need development is pretty important to us. It’s something that’s often taken for granted in the nonprofit community unfortunately.” 

The Neighborhood Builders program has been in operation since 2004. Through it, Bank of America has invested $6.2 million to support economic mobility within the Baltimore area. 

With this award, Per Scholas and Innovation Works will join the U.S. Neighborhood Builders network, which is the nation’s largest investment into nonprofit leadership development.

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