Marland Cole, a veteran Louisville business leader with a history of civic service, has been named to lead a new organization that is building on the work of 55,000 Degrees and Mayor Greg Fischer’s Cradle to Career framework to better align community resources to ensure that every child in Louisville is prepared for college, career and a successful, productive life.
The organization, being referred to as Cradle to Career/Louisville Promise until completion of a branding effort, will implement the Say Yes to Education theory of action to work across the community to ensure every child has the caring, belief, access and supports they need inside and outside of school to succeed in life.
Cradle to Career/Louisville Promise has evolved based on the learnings of 55,000 Degrees, which was founded in 2010 as both a movement and a backbone organization working to raise education attainment in Louisville. Organizers include leaders of 55K, the Mayor’s office, Jefferson County Public Schools, Metro United Way, James Graham Brown Foundation, CE&S Foundation and many other community partners.
“We are fostering an unprecedented partnership among public and private agencies to work together and work smarter to deliver the support students need to be successful and independent,” said Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of 55K Degrees.
This effort is being built on three components designed to support every child in our community, from birth to a successful career and life:
Comprehensive wrap-around services and opportunities that students need to be ready for and succeed in college.
Collaborative governance, including joint fiscal planning, with a strategic approach to data transparency.
A scholarship that provides hope to all students that college is for them.
Audwin Helton, the organization’s board chairman, said Cole, who begins work on Oct. 15, was chosen because of her proven leadership skills and collaborative vision.
“This effort is about saying to our children, ‘Our arms are around you, and here’s what we’re going to do to make sure you are successful,” Helton said. “I am thrilled to have Marland as our leader for this major community effort.”
Cole has more than 20 years of experience in the areas of Governance, Fund Development, Community Relations and Communications/Public Relations. She has spent the majority of her professional career in healthcare, serving in leadership roles at Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s Healthcare (now KentuckyOne), Hosparus and Baptist Health. At Baptist, she served as Assistant Vice President for Governance and Board support.
“I am excited and honored to be a part of a movement that strives to remove systemic barriers of poverty through education,” Cole said. “With the continued support and commitment of our many partners and this community, these efforts will bring positive, transformational change for Louisville and its residents.”
Prior to joining Baptist, Cole served as the Vice President for Institutional Advancement for Simmons College of Kentucky. In addition to her professional career, she has been an active community volunteer, serving in leadership roles with non-profit/civic organizations including Metro United Way, YMCA of Greater Louisville, the Lincoln Foundation, Maryhurst, Metro Bank and the Leadership Louisville Center. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Louisville and an MBA from Bellarmine University. A native of Bardstown, she and her husband Bryan have one daughter.
Mayor Fischer, who launched Cradle to Career in 2014 to build on the goals of 55K by focusing on helping our children from birth and early childhood to college and career, said this initiative is a major focus of his administration.
“One of the main challenges that came out of 55K and Cradle to Career is the need to organize and better align community resources to mitigate barriers caused by poverty, the lingering effects of historic racism, and the rising cost of college,” the Mayor said. “We recognized that we needed to go deeper by looking at the integration of education, workforce, social service and health interventions for students so that we can provide the wrap-around supports they need to be successful, and the confidence that they can continue their education after high school. That’s what this next step is all about.”
Leaders of the new organization have developed a partnership with the Weiss Institute, the technical assistance arm of Say Yes to Education, to begin creating this initiative to provide comprehensive wrap-around supports and opportunities to students, along with a hope-giving college promise scholarship. This work is also about working to build the more skilled workforce that businesses need to grow and invest in our community.
“I’m committed as superintendent to doing all I can to help break down the barriers that prevent some of our students from attending college and earning a degree,” Superintendent Pollio said. “This is a transformative, collaborative initiative that will create new opportunities and wrap around services for all students. In JCPS, we know that improving educational outcomes is critical—and we’re excited to partner with the city in this work to help students reach even greater levels of success.”
More details about the new organization will be unveiled in early 2019. In the meantime, Cole will work closely with Helton and other organization leaders and the community to set up a new 501c3 organization that will continue to drive this work forward.