It started one day with a quiet knock on a classroom door where I was volunteering. A student at Joseph George middle-school in East San Jose asked if she could continue building her solar car at lunch time. Soon, she was joined by a one friend, then another. Pretty soon, they would come three or four at a time during snack, lunch, and after school to perfect their vehicles and get them ready for the street.

The students thought they were having fun; but in reality, they were learning the fundamentals of engineering – friction, gear ratios, motors, solar energy and wind resistance. These students, several of whom faced significant struggles early on in their solar car classes, had found a place they could succeed. They approached their solar cars work with a newfound dedication and focus that blew their teachers and parents away.

This opportunity was facilitated by Citizen Schools, a nonprofit organization that works with working professionals to teach volunteer apprenticeships to middle school students in low-income communities. Citizen Schools is one of 92 nonprofit / nongovernmental organizations around the globe that received funding this year through the Cisco Foundation’s signature community granting program, called Community Impact Cash Grants, or CICG for short. One of the core values at Cisco is building strong relationships with partners in the communities in which we operate, and the CICG program is at the heart of those efforts.

Cisco support helps Citizen Schools encourage students to stay in school
Cisco Foundation grant support helps Citizen Schools expand the learning day for underserved middle school students by offering apprenticeships that get them excited about learning and encourage them to stay in school.

Since the inception of CICG in 2010, the Cisco Foundation has donated about $16 million to 302 organizations. CICG combines contributions and volunteer resources to meet local needs in the communities where Cisco employees live and work. These grants help countless children and their families overcome significant challenges, particularly in the areas of education (literacy and STEM) and critical human needs (hunger, health, shelter, and more).

Each year, Cisco employees help sort through hundreds of grant applications, most of which are incredibly compelling. Employees narrow it down to the programs that have the most impact, that change the most lives. These applications are then represented to the Cisco Foundation for funding consideration.

Cisco Foundation support helps Parikrma Humanity Foundation provide a high-quality education to children from the Bangalore slums.

And this year, like every year, the Cisco Foundation grantees are truly making a difference. Here are five that represent the spectrum of amazing work being done by the grant recipients.

  • Citizen Schools – Cisco Foundation awarded Citizen Schools a US$225,000 grant to support thousands of underserved students in California, Massachusetts, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and North Carolina to improve their academic performance, develop interest in and plans for college, partner with volunteers to explore STEM careers, access new technology, and become leaders in their careers and communities.
  • MIND Research Institute – Cisco Foundation awarded MIND Research Institute a US$82,000 grant. MIND has developed software and applications that allows students to learn math without relying upon English language skills. The results have been incredibly effective, with students doubling and tripling the increase in their math proficiency scores, compared to students who do not use the software. This grant will help scale MIND to locations across the nation to help thousands of students master the math skills they need to be successful in school and life.
  • Junior Achievement – Cisco Foundation awarded Junior Achievement a US$295,000 grant to help implement curriculum to equip students in financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness skills. The funding will serve nearly 18,000 students in California, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Texas. The ability to manage your finances is absolutely critical, and these skills will help these students be prepared as they enter adulthood.
  • Parikrma Humanity Foundation – Cisco Foundation awarded Parikrma a US$125,000 grant to help provide a high-quality education to children from the Bangalore slums by running four schools and a junior college. Sixteen hundred children receive free education as well as transportation, nutrition, and healthcare from kindergarten to Grade 12.
  • Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina – Cisco Foundation awarded Central & Eastern North Carolina (CENC) a US$25,000 grant to support the Three Squares program, which connects low-income households with federal food and nutrition assistance benefits. This will generate more than 450,000 meals through increased participation in the assistance program. That translates into 18 meals for every dollar that Cisco invests. In addition, CENC benefited from over $450K in employee donations and matches from Cisco’s annual Global Hunger Relief (GHR) Campaign.

In each of these organizations – and the other 87 that the Cisco Foundation funded this year – the grant dollars make an enormous impact in the lives of students, families, and the neediest in our communities.

Cisco is incredibly proud to partner with the Cisco Foundation and these organizations to help build thriving communities where our employees work, live, play, and learn.


Ricardo Benavidez

Senior Community Relations Manager