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The Pathways Project
Critical Need Alert


Thanks to the exceptional response from Columbus Foundation donors and the community, we’ve exceeded our goal!

In less than six weeks, 63 investors came together to leverage $634,850 ($34,850 more than our goal of $600,000) for The Pathways Project, a Critical Need Alert that will launch 125 in-demand technology careers for Opportunity Youth. Together, we have propelled at-risk youth in Franklin County from undesired idleness to the powerful pathways of technology careers. Not just training or jobs—but careers with upward mobility. Beyond these careers, this effort invests in our three partner nonprofits to amplify their capacity and propel new innovations into the future.

From start to finish, these young people will be mentored and transformed. We are grateful to our collaborative partners, i.c. stars, Digital Works, and Per Scholas for their determination and innovations to see these careers take flight. You can hear the power of this transformation in the words of one recent graduate of the Per Scholas program as reported in The Columbus Dispatch:

"Here, they push you. I felt the urgency. They're really changing lives…I also learned not to sell myself short."

Stephen Booker, Columbus resident

His gratitude was echoed by Plinio Ayala, Per Scholas president and CEO—

"Without the support of Columbus Foundation donors we would not be able to propel these young people into amazing careers while building a stronger community for everyone. The opportunities made possible will multiply throughout Columbus. Families will be stronger. It brings such joy to my heart.”


The Need


There are more than 20,000 Opportunity Youth (young adults not college bound, age 16 to 25) in Franklin County who are not in school and not working. They produce a substantial fiscal and social cost, annually exceeding $647 million in lost productivity and tax revenue.


Overall, Opportunity Youth are not competitive in the job market due to factors such as lack of education or a transient work history. Recent Foundation-commissioned research has revealed best practices that offer sustainable solutions. The Columbus Foundation’s Community Research and Grants Management team identified three innovative nonprofit organizations in the technology workforce development sector, Digital Works, i.c. stars, and Per Scholas, which we are partnering with to help launch in-demand technology careers for young adults. This project will substantially improve lives and spur community growth. There are approximately 1,200 annual technology openings that residents of central Ohio—if properly trained—could fill. This is the powerful opportunity that The Pathways Project is designed to seize.


While our goal has been met for this Critical Need Alert, we will continue to support Digital Works, i.c. stars, and Per Scholas with any gifts made to The Pathways Project.


The Organizations


The Columbus Foundation’s Community Research and Grants Management team has brought together a dynamic trio of partners to ensure The Pathways Project launches 125 technology careers.


Digital Works

Digital Works brings high-demand technology-based jobs to communities with vulnerable populations. The program trains, places, and mentors participants for in-demand workforce opportunities. Job training and placement includes virtual call centers, web development, and networking and information systems. Trainees complete 110 hours of instruction and are supported by a career counselor, readiness training, and 30 hours of on-boarding support to ensure a successful transition to employment.



i.c. stars

i.c. stars provides a rigorous technology-based workforce development and leadership training program for low-income young adults. The program has a successful 16-year track record developing talent and connecting trainees with career opportunities. i.c. stars is highly selective and seeks individuals who have overcome serious adversity and have developed the highest levels of resilience and a passion for technology. Participants work in teams on a range of projects during the 12-week intensive training course and two-year practicum.



Per Scholas

Per Scholas breaks the cycle of poverty by providing technology training and job placement services in underserved communities.  Per Scholas has shifted the paradigm of workforce development by giving people the technical, interpersonal, and business skills to gain meaningful employment. Per Scholas Columbus provides an 8-week, full-time, opportunity leading to CompTIA A+ professional certification. Participants are prepared for IT positions such as desktop support specialists, IT support analysts, and network field technicians. Per Scholas actively engages its alumni by offering continued opportunities for learning and coaching.




Critical Need Alerts (CNAs) were created for donors and community members who want to participate in a shared investment opportunity and partner with the Foundation to support our community’s greatest needs and best opportunities to meet those needs.


To date, CNAs have leveraged more than $6.6 million for a wide range of initiatives including childcare, food for families, basic needs, fresh food, and the arts. CNA’s are identified by our Community Research and Grants Management team, which strategically verify local nonprofits to ensure the most effective philanthropy possible.