The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation is donating $3 million to provide up to 200 scholarships for South Los Angeles area residents laid off or furloughed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was announced Friday.
Winfrey reached out to organizations that were responding to pandemic-caused needs, while also addressing systemic inequality and social justice.
"As I continue to seek out ways to support underserved communities, I was struck by the unique multi-layered approach to effect real change to the systematic barriers of access to healthy food, quality health care and educational opportunities,'' Winfrey said.
The COVID Retraining and Recovery Fund, set up by SoLa Impact's nonprofit affiliate, the SoLa I Can Foundation, will be tasked with awarding the scholarships.
They will focus specifically on enabling vocational degrees in the fields of health care and technology in an effort to create jobs and pathways to economic advancement for South LA's predominantly Black and Latinx community.
Sherri Francois, executive director of SoLa I Can, said the organization was "incredibly honored'' to be selected by Winfrey's foundation.
"Via the CORE Fund, we will be able to truly change the trajectory of hundreds of lives. In addition to scholarships, the SoLa I Can team and our partners will be providing mentorship, coaching, tracking and ultimately job placement for the CORE Scholars,'' Francois said.
Martin Muoto, CEO of SoLa Impact, said, "We quickly recognized that COVID-19 would have a disproportionate impact on the Black and Brown communities in Los Angeles, thus we launched the CORE Fund.''
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"We believe addressing economic inequality and racial injustice requires a holistic approach -- spanning education, housing and economic development -- and are thrilled that Ms. Winfrey has been such a strong supporter in addressing these issues,'' Muoto said. "We also want to recognize the early support of NaHCO3, the family office of Ashley and Marc Merrill, whose early support helped catalyze the CORE concept.''
Philanthropists, including the Merrills, Jimmy Iovine and Liberty Ross, and Live Nation Entertainment are among the Founder's Circle of donors.
SoLa I Can Foundation's partners in the South LA Forward initiative are the nonprofit SEE-LA and the Watts Healthcare Corporation.
For more information on resources available and how to apply for a scholarship, go to this site.