The Schools of Hope Project began in 1995 as a civic journalism project by the Wisconsin State Journal and WISC-TV that studied how active community engagement could address critical local area needs. Educational issues quickly emerged as a community priority. A Leadership Team comprised of community leaders was convened by United Way of Dane County. They reported the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers as a growing concern. Upon further study they identified tutoring as a method of addressing this challenge, and in 1998 the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) awarded a grant to provide AmeriCorps*VISTA members to serve in Madison elementary schools.
The program has continued to receive grant support from CNCS to provide first AmeriCorps*VISTA and now AmeriCorps members who serve as tutor coordinators in Dane County elementary schools. The grant is matched with United Way of Dane County funds as well as in-kind resources from the participating school districts.
Since the Schools of Hope Project began in Madison in 1998, it expanded to include the Sun Prairie Area School District in 2005, Verona Area School District in 2006, and Middleton in 2010. It currently serves all Madison elementary schools, and selected elementary schools in Middleton and Sun Prairie.
This program has been recognized nationally as a leader in school-community tutoring initiatives and AmeriCorps programming. It has been honored at a White House event, used as a case study in the White House Call to Service, featured in the 2009 congressional budget justification, and published in a book of the 52 most innovative AmeriCorps programs in the country.