The Heinz Endowments (THE) has approved a grant for $450,000 that will be awarded to Penn State Outreach in January 2021 to operate the Readiness Institute at Penn State. This initiative, which began with a pilot program this fall, will enable education, industry and community partners to create meaningful experiences that offer learners the opportunity to achieve community and future readiness.

The Readiness Institute at Penn State (RI) will be a unit of Penn State Outreach, in coordination with THE and the Consortium for Public Education and will be located in the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh. It will serve as a learning lab for students and educators, advancing THE’s vision of a more “Just Pittsburgh” by enabling learners from diverse backgrounds to develop skills and values needed for success.

THE has identified a “Just Pittsburgh” as an aspirational vision of the region where everyone is treated with fairness, dignity and respect, and all have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. Stan Thompson, senior program director of Education for THE, said, “To achieve this goal, efforts will have to be made in every sector to be open, inclusive and equitable, and to create environments that are healthy and sustainable — socially, emotionally and environmentally. Future readiness is achieved when you have learners who are able to take their skills and their attitudes and they’re able to design and lead in matters — personal, professional and public.”

Three major initiatives serve as the design solution of the RI at Penn State:

  • High school learners connect with industry and community on real-world problems and solutions.
  • Post-secondary learners pursue community and innovative future readiness experiences.
  • Professional educators experience professional development opportunities.

The current pilot program was launched this fall, a project titled “Future Readiness Lab” led by THE and the Consortium for Public Education, and is underway with high school students from Carlynton, Clairton, Deer Lakes, Hampton, Montour, Penn Hills, Pittsburgh Brashear and Woodland Hills. Penn State Outreach will build upon the pilot to expand the efforts in Summer 2021 with a seven-week intensive program.

“We are so grateful to The Heinz Endowments for providing support to launch this Penn State Outreach initiative in Pittsburgh,” said Tracey DeBlase Huston, vice president of Penn State Outreach. “Through this project, THE, Penn State and the Consortium for Public Education can play a pivotal role in making Pittsburgh a future-ready city: a place where learners trust that they have the access and opportunities to pursue post-high school pathways — knowing education, industry and government are working as a coordinated system to help them achieve their goals and assume their roles as informed, intelligent and caring citizens.”

As the gig economy rises and technology impacts every aspect of working life, the RI will function as a learning lab, with lab coaches, to prepare students to become successful lifelong learners able to thrive under new and changing conditions. The RI will bring together education, industry and the community around students’ interests, culture, knowledge and emotional needs. It is designed to expose students to real-world problems and use technology-enhanced innovations and data to study trends and create action.

A senior director of the RI at Penn State will be announced soon and will provide oversight for the strategy and execution of this major Penn State Outreach initiative.

THE is devoted to the mission of helping the region prosper as a vibrant center of creativity, learning, social, economic and environmental sustainability. Core to its work is the vision of a just community where all are included and where everyone who calls southwestern Pennsylvania home has a real and meaningful opportunity to thrive.

These funds will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit