Project L.I.F.T. launches new programs to connect Charlotte residents with technology, expand economic opportunity with $1 million from Knight Foundation


Dee Grano, VP, Kelso Communications (Charlotte), 704-604-7640, [email protected]            

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2646, [email protected]

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Oct. 30, 2018 – The Project L.I.F.T./Center City 1 Learning Community, a public-private partnership that works to improve the performance of public schools in Charlotte, today announced the launch of its Civic Tech Experience, a suite of programs focused on providing the city’s West Charlotte community with digital skill-building, as well as connections to economic resources and community engagement opportunities. The initiative is powered by a $1 million investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. 

“Progress in the Historic West End and other West Charlotte neighborhoods hinges on ensuring residents have the skills and resources they need to contribute to their growth. By creating inclusive pathways to technology training, as well as civic and economic resources, the Civic Tech Experience will help build a more engaged and prosperous community,” said Charles Thomas, Knight Foundation program director in Charlotte. 

A Civic Tech Experience launch event for media and neighbors is planned for this Tuesday, Oct. 30 at Bruns Academy, located in the Historic West End, a neighborhood of focus for Knight Foundation. The Historic West End, anchored by Johnson C. Smith University, has made important contributions to Charlotte’s history, culture and growth. The area is on the cusp of positive transformation through a concentration of public investment and resident-led initiatives such as Pedal to Porch and Open Streets 704

The Civic Tech Experience will build on this progress working to expand opportunity in the neighborhood through three key programs:

  • The Digital Inclusion InstituteA digital literacy program for parents of students in West Charlotte. Through ongoing six-week training courses, participants learn the basics of operating a computer and how to use the internet, email and Microsoft Office Suite programs. The Institute increases economic opportunity for participants by teaching new technology skills and strengthens the community by further engaging parents in the public education system.  
  • Pop-Up Villages: Fun, festival-style site activations that encourage engagement between educators, local service providers and families in public spaces. Parents can network and learn about educational opportunities and local resources for tax preparation, financial counseling, benefits eligibility screenings and more. Children can enjoy interactive STEM activities and workshops. 
  • Charlotte TrajectoryA central hub for resources and free services that introduce West Charlotte families to new economic opportunities. The Trajectory is offered in partnership with Johnson C. Smith University and is powered by Single Stop Technologies and Aunt Bertha, which connects people to resources they need to attain higher education, obtain employment and achieve financial stability.

The initiative will further revitalize parts of West Charlotte, which have experienced economic setbacks in the last few decades, leading to blight in commercial corridors and lower income levels. The area’s progress has also been inhibited by a lack of access to technology. Parts of West Charlotte have been called “broadband deserts,” meaning affordable high speed internet is scarce.

“From the start of Project L.I.F.T., we have always made it a priority to listen to our families,” said Denise Watts, learning community superintendent. “The Civic Tech Experience was created because our parents identified these critical barriers to their scholars’ success. We are optimistic that our programs will bridge the gap for these families and get them connected and enabled to be more upwardly mobile.”

Project L.I.F.T. was created in 2010 as a public-private partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to provide extra resources and support for the district’s nine lowest performing schools. L.I.F.T. stands for Leadership and Investment for Transformation. The learning community was expanded and is now part of the consolidated Project L.I.F.T./Central 1 Learning Community. 

Knight Foundation supported the creation of Project L.I.F.T. in 2012 with a $4 million investment to engage residents in the new initiative and provide laptops for students. Knight’s support of the Civic Tech Experience is part of its efforts in the Historic West End to leverage new public and private investments and foster a more engaged community. 

About the Project L.I.F.T./Central 1 Learning Community

The Project L.I.F.T./Central 1 Learning Community seeks to transform the way students who traditionally perform poorly in school are educated by ensuring they are equipped and well-prepared. We are a community of mission-aligned educators with the goal of closing the achievement gap. Learn more about the Project L.I.F.T./Central 1 Learning Community and what makes us bold, unconventional and innovative at

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit

Image (top): Parents participating in the Digital Inclusion Institute. Courtesy of Project L.I.F.T. Color manipulations by Knight Foundation.