Now is the time to
reimagine K-12 education

Do you have an idea for educational solutions that prepare students for career success?

Career education has historically been offered as an alternative to college.

Students have been forced to choose between educational tracks that reinforce an inequitable system. But career connections in K-12 and postsecondary education are valuable for all students. What’s more, young people today embrace college and career. They want educational experiences that help them build the skills, knowledge, and mindsets to prepare them for lifelong career success.

The Challenge is looking for bold, creative ideas from United States-based innovators that reinvent young people’s education to emphasize career exploration and learning both inside and outside of the classroom.

Co-sponsored by American Student Assistance, Charter School Growth Fund, and the Walton Family Foundation, the Catalyze Challenge will fund innovative programs that empower young people to connect education and career across grades 6-14.

Solutions may include career exploration and navigation, career-relevant instruction, curricula and credentials, work-based learning experiences, social capital development or other models and programs that enhance students’ career readiness through both education and work.

Who Can Apply

Schools, organizations, and entrepreneurs across the U.S. with innovative solutions targeting grades 6-14.

Schools & Educators
Government agencies
Organizations Representing Workers & Employers
Community members
Applicant Requirements
Successful applicants will:
  • Have a unique solution to
    career-connected learning
  • Demostrate community demand
  • Possess the experience and skills to implement their plan
Additionally, Accelerate Award
winners will display:
  • Potential for adoption
  • A viable financial model
  • An ability to deliver impact to students

The Challenge will distribute funding for programs based on the stage of their idea development and readiness to launch.

Programs ready to launch

1-year Accelerate Awards of up to $500,000 for program piloting and/or expansion

Early stage ideas still in R&D

One year Ignite Awards of up to $50,000, access to formal programming, marketing tools and potential to apply for school
year 2022-23

The challenge brief

Learn more about
the Challenge

Frequently asked questions


If you have a program ready to launch in 2021-2022, then we encourage you to apply for an Accelerate Award for School Year 2021-’22. If you have an idea that needs further development, then we encourage you to apply for an Ignite Award for School Year 2021-’22. If you have a program preparing for launch in 2022-2023 , please apply for an Accelerate Award for School Year ‘22-’23

Eligible programs for the Accelerate track will present, via their applications, a:

  • Defined and committed target audience
  • Detailed implementation plan (or have already piloted a program)
  • Financial plan for operations that will guide/support day to day operations.

We will prioritize programs that address historically underserved communities and celebrate a local asset, such as a physical plant like a community center, or a community ethos specific to a given geography or ethnic group.

Ignite track-eligible programs will receive funding to plan, test, and validate their ideas. We encourage Ignitees to apply for additional funding to launch their models in future Challenges.


An ideal applicant simply does not exist. Why? Groundbreaking ideas can come from a variety of applicants so long as they address an issue that is critical to a community and are approached in a way that is sensitive to the needs and interests of that community.

We anticipate the best ideas will come from cross-sector programs and models, such as a local employer partnering with a school district, a community organization working with a local charter school, an entrepreneur partnering with a community organization, or a post-secondary institution, state agency l school district working together on a breakthrough model.

We especially encourage ideas from schools, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, community leaders, and educators that serve traditionally underrepresented communities.


No, Accelerate awards are granted in amounts worth up to $500K, and Ignite awards amounts worth up to $50K. Applicants will propose an award budget in their applications. The Challenge evaluators will review the applicant’s request, as supported by plans and other documentation, in granting specific awards.


For the Accelerate award, for-profits, individuals, and organizations awaiting tax-exempt status determination are eligible only when partnering with a benefitting tax-exempt organization. The Accelerate award will be granted to the named tax-exempt organization.

Ignite awards are open to any individual, organization, tax-exempt organization, for-profit entity. Individuals and for-profit applicants may need to meet additional eligibility criteria as defined in the Grant Agreement.

Please check the Challenge Brief for more details on the Challenge timeline, awards, eligibility, evaluation, and more.


Applicants for the Accelerate award are expected to spend 5-10 hours preparing their responses. Applicants for the Ignite award should spend no more than 2-4 hours.

Please direct all additional questions to

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