Advance Ypsi initiative is part of Detroit Regional Chamber’s $30M Detroit Drives Degrees Community College Collaborative

ANN ARBOR, Michigan (April 24, 2023) –Washtenaw Community College (WCC) has been awarded a $2.09 million grant to launch a jobs and education initiative to boost the quality of life and outcomes for underrepresented populations in Ypsilanti.

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation grant will fund WCC’s new Advance Ypsi initiative to strengthen pathways to prosperity through education and career development.

Advance Ypsi is part of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees Community College Collaborative (D3C3), which today announced over $30 million in support from Ballmer Group and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. The D3C3 initiative is a partnership with seven Southeast Michigan community colleges, including Washtenaw, to ensure students have equitable educational opportunities and graduate with high-value credentials or degrees that lead to good-paying, in-demand jobs with local employers, boosting the Region’s overall prosperity.

Our initiative will serve 300 Ypsilanti Community Schools high school students and adults from Ypsilanti over three years, training and preparing them for careers with an earning potential of at least $40,000. When fully realized, more than $12 million annually could be earned by residents in a community where 50% of households live below the poverty level and the post-secondary educational rate is 20%, according to the most recent US Census.

“WCC has long been a community partner to build bridges for students in their education and pursuit of jobs and careers that will help them prosper not only today but for a lifetime,” said WCC college President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca. “This is an historic initiative that has the potential to transform the regional talent pipeline in Southeast Michigan and support the goal of college completion.”

Advance Ypsi will launch in the Fall of 2023 with an emphasis on careers in mobility-focused transportation, manufacturing and IT sectors.

“We are working hand in hand with YCS, employers and WCC faculty to develop curriculum that pairs classroom instruction with real-world experience to equip students for jobs in high-demand sectors, many of which are going unfilled in today’s economy due to a lack of skilled workers,” said Brandon Tucker, WCC Vice President & Chief Workforce and Community Development Officer.

Students will be supported every step of the way through a robust career coaching model that will include mentors, tutoring, small class sizes for deeper learning opportunities, expert resources and on-the-job training from employers.

For the past decade WCC and Ypsilanti Community Schools have come together to focus on dual enrollment strategies and other community initiatives, including partnering with the Ypsilanti-based Michigan Works! on workforce development programs and operating the Parkridge and Harriet Street community centers, both also located in Ypsilanti.

As part of the collaborative, WCC and six other community college partners are also executing plans that increase enrollment for high school students and align academic programs to promising career paths. The college partners are also developing regional strategies to collectively address inequitable systems.

Additional community college partners include Henry Ford College, Macomb Community College, Monroe County Community College, Oakland Community College, Schoolcraft College and Wayne County Community College District.

“D3C3 is about transforming our talent pipeline through innovative partnerships with local community colleges that are uniquely positioned to help students enter the workforce with the qualifications employers need,” said Sandy K. Baruah, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber. “Ballmer Group and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s generous support speaks to the value of this initiative and importance of collaborative and job-focused education that will benefit employers, families, and the Region.”

D3C3 developed out of the Chamber’s Detroit Regional Talent Compact, a 10-year equity-driven initiative to increase the Region’s postsecondary attainment rate to 60% and reduce the racial equity gap by half by 2030 – the same “60 by 30” goal later adopted by the State of Michigan.

“Community colleges are the largest and one of the most important talent development asset in Southeast Michigan. Skilled talent is directly linked to economic growth and regional prosperity,” said David Egner, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “The Detroit Drives Degrees Community College Collaborative (D3C3) is a large-scale, strategic injection of investment in our regional community college system that has the potential to make meaningful and lasting change. We are thrilled to partner with the community college leaders, Ballmer Group, and the Detroit Regional Chamber, to envision, and now officially launch, D3C3.”

“Students facing barriers to degree attainment deserve access to family-sustaining careers,” said Kylee Mitchell Wells, Ballmer Group’s Southeast Michigan Executive Director. “This partnership is designed to open new doors and create smoother pathways from education to career success, closing equity gaps across our Region.”


Advance Ypsi is an historic new initiative by WCC to strengthen pathways to prosperity for Ypsilanti residents through job training and education. To learn more about Advance Ypsi or apply for the program, visit

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