In a year fraught with uncertainty, the Metallica Scholars Initiative outpaced expectations, prompting a unanimous decision by the board of directors to expand the nationwide program from 15 community colleges to 23 in 2021. The Foundation plans to donate $1.6 million in funding with the goal of reinvesting in communities that have supported the band over the last four decades.
The Metallica Scholars Initiative was created in 2019 through a partnership between the band's All Within My Hands Foundation (AWMH) and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), a Washington, D.C.-based organization representing the country's nearly 1,200 community colleges. Starting with 10 colleges located in communities that supported METALLICA on tour, schools were selected via a competitive application process, each receiving $100,000 toward programs designed to support students training to enter the American workforce.
The Metallica Scholars Initiative has found success by connecting students to skill-building opportunities in their local communities, bridging the talent needs of the American workforce through the community college system. Kicking off the third year of the program, AWMH will be joined once again by Rockford, Michigan-based Wolverine Boots and Apparel, along with other notable partners to be announced, supplementing All Within My Hands' cumulative $1.6 million contribution. Wolverine VP of marketing Andrew Shripka commented, "Wolverine is dedicated to supporting the people who have the grit and work ethic it takes to pursue a career in the trades, and we are excited to join forces again with All Within My Hands to support the next class of Metallica Scholars."
Final reports from all 15 schools in 2020 proved that, even with the obvious complications presented by a pandemic, each school selected for the Metallica Scholars grant successfully modified programming to provide students with industry-relevant applied learning programs based on local demands. Funding served over 1,000 students at community colleges across the U.S. in career and technical training programs last year, and outcomes exceeded expectations.
From Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte: "97.6% of the Metallica Scholars scheduled to graduate in the spring or summer 2020 semesters were successful. Students across ten different academic health programs were supported by Metallica Scholars funds. Certification exam pass rates and employment rates of those who were eligible exceeded 90%."
While high rates of achievement are certainly proof that the Metallica Scholars Initiative is accomplishing its goals, the Foundation finds inspiration from personal anecdotes shared by the students themselves. Emma-Lynn Ponds, a welding scholar from Valencia College, articulates how her training goes beyond establishing a career path when she says, "The whole reason I'm doing this is because I wanna be the first in my family to break the cycle of poverty."
Jennifer Worth, senior vice president of workforce and economic development at the American Association of Community Colleges, works closely with AWMH to connect students with employment opportunities. She speaks to the relationships between METALLICA/AWMH and AACC as well as that between the scholars and the growing workforce in communities across the country saying, "AACC is honored to manage the All Within My Hands' Metallica Scholars Initiative. As we engage more communities, we have the opportunity to connect with more industry partners, each of which affirms that high-quality, skilled trade jobs are available, and community colleges are the premier places to train and amass talent. We will not stop doing this work until that recognition is as awesomely global as the band's trust in us, our colleges, and the students with whom we work."
James Hetfield, METALLICA co-founder, guitarist, and vocalist, says: "It has been amazing to see this program continue to grow and thrive. I get so grateful hearing from those who benefit from our grant. Hearing their story of doubt to direction. From those who are able to pursue additional education leading directly to meaningful employment. It gave us confidence that we are doing the right thing and inspired us to do even more. We are very proud and excited to work with additional schools encouraging even more Metallica Scholars to pursue a profession in the skilled trades."
This announcement comes on the heels of a special "Metallica Mondays" concert, streamed on YouTube as a part of the Foundation's Month of Giving supporting Direct Relief and Feeding America. The fundraising efforts throughout May have included specially designed merchandise, a fan fundraising contest, and an autographed guitar auction. Conceived within the restrictions of COVID-19 and designed to adhere to the Foundation's mission dedicated to creating sustainable communities by supporting workforce education, the fight against hunger, and critical local services, this was All Within My Hands' second Month of Giving.