For over 20 years at SMASH, our goal has remained the same – to ensure that every student, regardless of the zip code they grew up in, has the opportunity to participate and thrive in the global economy. We have prepared thousands of scholars and alumni to flourish in STEM education, careers, and have dramatically grown our reach and impact over the last two decades.
We have launched powerful partnerships at two Historically Black Colleges – Morehouse College and Spelman College, evolved our curriculum to reflect the future of work and embrace hybrid learning, piloted programming for our scholar alumni, and expanded our internship offerings in STEM.
As we’ve grown over the years, the world around us has changed. Higher education has been undergoing an evolution and funding available to universities – essential partners for our existing programs – has declined. Not only has this meant that universities are increasingly unable to provide donations for our programs, but it has also meant that the cost of our Academy programming has continuously increased.
The tech sector – another major source of our funding – has embarked on significant cost-cutting initiatives, which has resulted in a material decrease in donor and partner contributions. It has become clear that we are unable to achieve our mission to impact as many young people as possible with our current cost structure and programming model.
In response to these significant changes in our funding landscape as well as broader trends in education and tech which are highly relevant for our scholars – decreased enrollment in higher education, increased interest in alternative pathways into tech careers, as well as the growth of skills-based hiring practices – the SMASH Board and Executive Committee have been working to reimagine the future of SMASH. Specifically, we’ve been looking at how we can serve more scholars and ensure the long-term financial viability of the organization in order to more deeply impact true systemic change.
During this transitional time, the SMASH Board Executive Committee will function as CEO. As we define new programming later this year, we will be launching a search for a new leader.
For now, SMASH as we know it will look a little different but our goal of supporting our scholars and alumni is unchanged. SMASH Academy, our free 3-year intensive STEM-focused college prep program, will be held virtually and SMASH Rising, our early-stage workplace readiness program, will continue its hybrid format in the summer of 2023. Some of our alumni programming will wind down after this current academic semester, including SMASH Admit and SMASH Persist.
As we work towards a meaningful re-imagining of SMASH’s program offerings for 2024 and beyond, these changes, unfortunately, mean that some of the SMASH full-time roles – a total of 14 – will be eliminated as of July 31, 2023. As an organization, we are very committed to providing support (severance, health care, and outplacement) to all staff who will not be continuing with SMASH in its next phase. We have chosen to share this news now, ahead of our summer programming, to provide as much clarity for all of our staff into what the future holds for them. These have been the most difficult decisions we have had to make in the history of the organization, as the passion, dedication, and hard work of our team is the reason we have been able to deliver such impactful programming for our scholars and alumni.
Over the next few months, we will be refining the next phase of SMASH – a phase with more cost-effective and scalable programs, reaching an exponentially higher number of students, more directly aligned with the work of the broader Kapor family of organizations, centering innovation in all that we do.
While this is a difficult moment, we look forward to sharing the reimagined version of SMASH – one in which we continue our commitment to ensuring all students regardless of zip code have the ability to participate and thrive in the global economy through new, more innovative and sustainable programming – in the fall of 2023.
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