Job Posting: Director of Community Engagement

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55,000 Degrees (55K) is seeking a Director of Community Engagement to creatively build audience for and motivate stakeholder engagement in 55K’s mission by championing Louisville’s college-going and completion culture, engaging groups and individuals who care and want to help, identifying and deploying effective communications vehicles and facilitating 55K’s role in events, coalitions and action networks. The Director will act as ambassador and champion for the value of postsecondary education.

55,000 Degrees is a multi-sector partnership and community movement launched in 2010 with the goal of increasing postsecondary degree attainment in the Louisville region to 50% of the working age population (or 55,000 more degrees) by 2020.

Expected Outcomes (what success looks like)

  1. Take 55K’s outreach and engagement to the next level by building and implementing a strategy to engage those who care and want to help Louisville’s college completion agenda
  2. Facilitate and support collaborative action to improve student outcomes and further 55K objectives
  3. Build online audience through digital marketing channels
  4. Promote 55K’s brand and 2020 goal

View the full job description here

“I’m Going to College” 55K Signing Day Celebrates Commitment to College

Mayor Fischer declares Saturday “College Spirit Day”

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (May 29, 2014) 55,000 Degrees, Louisville’s education movement, is joining forces with community partners to celebrate the commitment of Louisville high school students to earn their college degrees. All high school seniors pledging to go to college are invited to I’m Going to College 55K Signing Day.

“We’re committed to adding 55,000 more college graduates in the Louisville area by 2020,” said Mayor Greg Fischer, chairman of 55,000 Degrees. “Each high school senior making the decision to go to college is getting us one step closer to our goal, while putting themselves on the path to a brighter future.”

Mayor Fischer will take part in signing day festivities Saturday to recognize students’ hard work and dedication. The event is free and open to the public.


I’m Going to College 55K Signing Day

Saturday, May 31, 2:00-4:30 p.m.

Kentucky Center for African American Heritage

1701 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd.


Register in advance at or register on-site the day of the event, 1:00-2:00 p.m.

Mayor Fischer said this is an effort the entire community can support. He declared Saturday, May 31 “College Spirit Day.” Fischer is encouraging all residents to show their college spirit and support for students beginning their college careers by wearing t-shirts and other college apparel.

I’m Going to College 55K Signing Day is a day of celebration and a chance to connect college-bound students with key resources. Organizer DeWana Hadder is a first-generation college student who launched the I’m Going to College Pep Rally last year. “I wanted students to know the community supports their decision to go to college,” said Hadder. “Our community offers too many resources for students to feel they’re alone in their efforts. I want them to know we’re behind them and will be throughout their college journey.”

The pep rally evolved into a signing day event, with students signing a commitment to attend college and earn their degrees. “Deciding to go to college is a time of celebration for students,” said Mary Gwen Wheeler, 55,000 Degrees executive director. “Special recognition should extend to all students, not just athletes who capture headlines when signing letters of intent.”


Connecting with Resources

Several area colleges and universities are taking part in I’m Going to College 55K Signing Day, giving students a chance to connect with staff and other students before starting college. Efforts are designed to help prevent “summer melt,” seen when students enroll for college, but don’t attend in the fall. Nearly 20% of JCPS students who file a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) do not enroll in college in the fall.

Schools taking part in I’m Going to College 55K Signing Day include:

University of Louisville                                                    Sullivan University

University of Kentucky                                                Spencerian College

Jefferson Community & Technical College                   Ivy Tech Community College

Bellarmine University                                                 Kentucky State University

Spalding University                                                     Murray State University

Indiana University Southeast                                      Western Kentucky University


Fun and Food

Students taking part in I’m Going to College 55K Signing Day will be encouraged to use social media to share pictures and updates throughout the day, #ig2c.

A limited number of free t-shirts will be available to participants and door prizes will be offered, including several TARC Summer Youth Passes offering unlimited travel through August 31. Texas Roadhouse is providing free food.

Sponsors include 55,000 Degrees, I’m Going to College, 15K Degrees Initiative, Jefferson County Public Schools, Archdiocese of Louisville, KentuckianaWorks, Louisville Urban League, KHEAA and Louisville Metro Police Foundation.

Destination: Degree is a Guide to a College Degree

New website from 55,000 Degrees features valuable information and resources

55,000 Degrees, Louisville’s education movement, has launched a new web tool that will help keep students on the right path to earning a college degree. Destination: Degree provides valuable information, resources and milestones at all educational levels. It’s designed for students, parents, educators, counselors, adult learners who may be returning to the classroom and community members.

The new website,, features local benchmarks and local resources, helping to ensure that students get on track and stay on track as they work toward a college degree.

“Preparing for college starts with a student’s earliest days in the classroom,” said Mary Gwen Wheeler, 55,000 Degrees executive director. “We want students thinking about college from a young age and we want parents armed with the information they need to make sure their children are on track. Destination: Degree is a roadmap to educational success at every grade level and no matter at what stage of life.”

55,000 Degrees has worked closely with Jefferson County Public Schools, local colleges and Metro United Way to provide helpful information to parents, mentors and students. Each grade level provides a snapshot of on-track benchmarks and test scores, as well as “power skills” and “booster experiences” to support success in the classroom.

Helpful links will connect users with a host of information from after-school programs and tutoring to summer jobs and financial aid applications. Adult learners will find tips on returning to school, assistance on transferring credits and even a list of “Degrees At Work” employers in Louisville.

Destination: Degree was launched by 55,000 Degrees, the ambitious initiative to add 55,000 more college graduates in the Louisville area by 2020, and made possible through a grant from JPMorgan Chase Foundation.

TARC Design-A-Bus Contest Highlights Destination: Degree

TARC partnered with Mayor Greg Fischer and the 55,000 Degrees initiative for this year’s 15th annual Design-A-Bus contest, featuring artwork by school children throughout the Louisville area. This year’s theme was “Destination: Degree – The Path to Success.”

“We hope that when people see this bus around town, they’ll think about the positive message that kids are sending with their artwork,” said Barry Barker, TARC executive director. “Earning a college degree is a great goal and Destination: Degree is going to make it easier for students to achieve their dreams.”

Twelve local students were selected as winners of the contest with their artwork displayed on a TARC bus that will travel throughout Louisville for the next year. You’ll be able to spot the bus in this year’s Kentucky’ Derby Festival Republic Bank Pegasus Parade. Winners and guests will ride on the bus in the parade on Thursday, May 1.

This year’s winners:

Erin Jacobs, First Grade, Rangeland Elementary
Khaniece Keltee, Second Grade, Rangeland Elementary
Ava Lyvers, Second Grade, Schaffner Elementary
Ronald Bethel, Fourth Grade, Schaffner Elementary
Lazarus Vance, Fourth Grade, Rangeland Elementary
Jade Podbelsek, Fourth Grade, Bloom Elementary
Alexandria Brown, Fifth Grade, Rangeland Elementary
Tanyia Williams, Fifth Grade, Schaffner Elementary
Kendrick Johnson Jr., Fifth Grade, Hartstern Elementary
Lexie Matson, Fifth Grade, Bowen Elementary
Mackenzie Smith, Eighth Grade, Highland Middle School
Sunny Podbelsek, Eighth Grade, Highland Middle School

You can see all of the winning artwork at

55,000 Degrees Recruiting College Graduates to ‘Pass The Cap’

55,000 Degrees, Louisville’s education movement, is recruiting the 2014 class of college graduates for an important job – to inspire friends and loved ones to earn a college degree.

The “Pass The Cap” campaign is calling on soon-to-be college graduates to pass their graduation cap onto someone they believe can earn a college degree.

Mayor Greg Fischer, chairman of 55,000 Degrees, and Madeline Abramson, a long-time community leader who earned her college degree just a few months ago, are leading the inspirational effort. Universities and colleges throughout the area are joining in, contacting graduating seniors and encouraging them to “Pass The Cap.”

“We believe there’s no better way to cap off a personal success than to inspire someone else to earn their college degree,” Mayor Fischer said. “That’s how we will reach our 55,000-degree goal – one degree at a time.”

The idea is simple – if you will graduate in May, find someone to “Pass The Cap” to in order to inspire another graduate. Give your graduation cap to someone who you believe can earn a college degree. It might be a sibling, a parent, a friend or a neighbor. It may be an adult learner preparing to return to the classroom, someone who is on track to earn a diploma or someone who just didn’t finish the college journey.

Abramson, wife of Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, earned her bachelor’s degree in December – more than two decades after she first attended college. Part of the inspiration to finish what she started came from her husband and her son, Sidney, who will graduate from Bellarmine University in May.

“Passing the cap – literally or figuratively – to someone else is a tremendous, motivational gift,” Abramson said. “It says, ‘I believe in you and I know you can do it.’”

Here’s how “Pass The Cap” works:

Choose someone

• Let a person know you will give your graduation cap to them after you cross the stage because you believe they can earn a diploma, too.

Tell everyone

• Post an inspirational message on our Facebook page (
• Tweet your message on Twitter (#passthecap, @55kDegrees)
• Post a “Pass The Cap” video tribute on YouTube
• Post a picture on Instagram (#passthecap, @55000Degrees)

“The passing of the cap represents the passing of the baton,” said Mary Gwen Wheeler, 55,000 Degrees executive director. “There’s no better time to inspire someone to literally walk in your footsteps than after walking across a stage and receiving a diploma. A degree increases a person’s earning power and opens the door to new opportunities.”

55,000 Degrees is the ambitious initiative to add 55,000 more college graduates in the Louisville area by 2020. In 2013, Louisville had the highest percentage of working-age adults with a college degree in the community’s history at 41.3 percent. The city exceeded the national average (39.4 percent) by nearly 2 percentage points.

‘Reverse transfer degree’ program helps college students mark milestones

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Is it possible to earn a college degree and not know it?

Officials at the University of Louisville, Jefferson Community and Technical College and 55,000 Degrees say it is. They have collaboratively launched a new program to help transfer students determine if they already have enough credit hours for a JCTC associate degree.

“This program is a big win for everyone,” said UofL President James Ramsey. “We’ve made it easy for our transfer students to figure out if they already qualify, or are close to qualifying, for an associate degree.”

The Reverse Transfer Degree initiative targets scholars who earned at least 15 credit hours from JCTC before transferring to UofL and earning another 45 credit hours. UofL has identified more than 1,300 students who may be eligible for the initiative.  Over 100 are expected to receive a reverse associate degree this semester.

“Students who start at Jefferson and transfer are focused on that four-year degree and often don’t realize how close they are to earning the associate,” said Tony Newberry, president of JCTC. “We are pleased that our great partner, UofL, not only recognizes the value of the associate degree but also the hard work it takes to earn one.”

The Reverse Transfer Degree initiative is another way UofL and JCTC are supporting 55,000 Degrees—a plan to add 55,000 more college graduates in the Louisville area by 2020.

“As it turns out, many people have already passed this 60-credit-hour mark. Earning an associate degree is not only a milestone but a motivator for students,” said Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of 55,000 Degrees. “Reverse transfers fuel persistence and encourage students to stay in school and finish a four-year degree.”

For details about the program, contact UofL’s Wes Partin, Office of Admissions, at or 502-852-4959.