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4/12/2017 - Bridgeport Awarded $15,000 Working Cities Challenge Planning Grant

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Dana Freeman,

Communications Manager

(203) 339- 6347



Bridgeport Awarded $15,000 Working Cities Challenge Planning Grant
to Increase Graduation Rates and Lower Youth Unemployment
A long-term solution through a unified vision and community engagement


Bridgeport, Conn.  – April 12, 2017 – The city of Bridgeport in partnership with United Way of Coastal Fairfield County (UWCFC) is one of 10 Connecticut cities to receive a $15,000 planning grant from The Working Cities Challenge, an initiative of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. The grant is designed to encourage cities and towns to work collaboratively to focus and solve their most pressing issues surrounding economic growth and development.


In Bridgeport the efforts of the community, lead by the city government, UWCFC and Bridgeport Prospers (the Collective Impact movement in Bridgeport) were recognized for their work to improve the odds for the city’s children by convening community and business leaders, non-profit organizations, educators, local government, parents and those affected the most – the city’s youth. 


The concept of the Working Cities Challenge began back in 2008 in Massachusetts with a community development project from the Boston Fed to promote economic growth in New England’s low-income communities. The goal was to use Springfield Mass. as a pilot to test if through active civic engagement the city could see a viable resurgence. With success in Springfield, the Working Cities Challenge program looked to expand beyond Massachusetts. The findings showed nationwide; cities which saw revitalization had a critical component – active cross-sector community engagement.


“The city of Bridgeport is proud to have been recognized as a leader in moving the city towards a brighter future,” said Kimberly Staley, Chief Administrative Officer, City of Bridgeport “This effort must include our young people and providing opportunities for them to not only remain in the city as adults but to be able to prosper here.”


“This planning grant will allow UWCFC, the City of Bridgeport, Bridgeport Public Schools, local university partners, and a multiple of community and business partners to focus on the critical planning and design work needed to realize the unified vision for Bridgeport,” noted Merle Berke- Schlessel, Esq. President and CEO of Untied Way of Coastal Fairfield County “By creating a focus on civic engagement and not just revitalization, Bridgeport will grow and flourish for generations to come.”


As part of the six month planning grant process, those involved will focus on developing comprehensive plans to  better identify and assist at-risk youth, create a plan to better match students with specialty education and job training, engage local businesses to better anticipate their future workforce needs, encourage inclusion of growth industries such as sustainability/ green jobs in building pathways for Bridgeport youth into entry level jobs and seek input from the city’s youth who will be most affected by this work. At the end of the six month design phase, the 10 Connecticut towns will be eligible to apply for implementation grants between $300,000 and $500,000.



United Way of Coastal Fairfield County’s mission is: “Together, we mobilize our communities to improve people’s lives”. Our vision is that all at-risk children in Coastal Fairfield County are successful in school and prepared for success in life.  United Way of Coastal Fairfield County serves the towns of Bridgeport, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport and Wilton.  Find out more at our website at, and follow us on social media @UWCFC.

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