McConaugheys Launch Initiative to Simplify Grant Process for Safer Schools

July 21, 2023 by Dan McCue
McConaugheys Launch Initiative to Simplify Grant Process for Safer Schools
Matthew McConaughey

LOS ANGELES — The actor Matthew McConaughey and his wife Camila launched a new initiative Thursday intended to simplify the federal grant application process to support mental health programs and safe learning environments in schools.

The couple’s goal in creating the Greenlights Grant Initiative is to help school districts get the grant writing and other support they need to secure a portion of the billions of dollars set aside for safe school programs by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

President Joe Biden signed the act into law in June 2022 in the wake of the mass shooting at the Robb Elementary School in McConaughey’s hometown of Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two teachers dead, and another 17 students injured.

The incident stands as the third-deadliest school shooting in the United States, after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, as well as the ninth-deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The act makes billions of dollars available to states, local communities and schools through the departments of Justice, Education and Health and Human Services to promote safer, more inclusive and positive school environments for students, teachers and school staff.

“While the legislation is crucial in protecting America’s youth from violence, it remains far too difficult for school districts to apply for and receive federal school safety grants,” the McConaugheys said in a joint written statement.

“The parents in Uvalde asked us to do one thing — to ‘make their lives matter.’ We hope the Greenlights Grant Initiative can help do just that,” the couple said.

Among their partners in the effort is the School Superintendents Association. Its executive director, David Schuler, described the initiative as a “groundbreaking project that will ensure federal school safety grants can be a realistic option for districts of all sizes — not just those with the means to hire grant writers.”

“Students and educators in some of our least resourced, most rural communities are desperate for more mental health services and for more secure buildings, and this initiative ensures that district leaders in these communities know about these federal funding opportunities and understand how to access these critical dollars,” Schuler added.

The Greenlights Grant Initiative will serve school districts by focusing on three key priorities:

Education: Raising awareness of available school safety grant opportunities and how to secure them. This includes notifications of when grants become available, how to apply and grant deadlines.

Support: Providing tailored resources — ranging from tutorials, webinars and guidebooks as well as fully funded grant writing services — to select, high need, low-capacity districts.

Advocacy: Encouraging policymakers to maximize funding for school safety grants and to streamline and simplify the grant-making process.

In launching the Greenlights Grant Initiative, the McConaugheys also announced the members of what they called its “strategic advisory council.”

The body’s co-chairs are Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Reps. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., and Tony Gonzales, R-Texas.

Additional members of the advisory council include: Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Dr. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas.

According to the McConaugheys, the advisory council will provide the Greenlights Grant Initiative with critical guidance and direction on how to maximize funding for school safety grants and to implement reforms to the grant-making process that make accessing funds easier for applicants.

“The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was an important step in curbing the gun violence epidemic plaguing our country, including in our schools and amongst our students,” Clyburn said in a written statement. “We must now ensure that the legislation is implemented effectively, efficiently and equitably. 

“That includes ensuring that underserved schools receive an equitable share of the funds made available by the bill to protect their students. That is why I am pleased to join the Greenlights Grant Initiative as a congressional advisory co-chair. The initiative’s work to help get BSCA money to schools that might otherwise be excluded is absolutely essential. I look forward to working alongside Matthew and Camila McConaughey on this critical effort,” Clyburn said.

The Greenlights Grant Initiative received early financial support from investor Dean Graziosi, and Salesforce, a strategic partner of the project.

The initiative is an offshoot of the McConaugheys’ just keep livin Foundation, which was established in 2017 to empower high school students by providing them with the tools to lead active lives and make healthy choices for a better future. 

Currently, the just keep livin Foundation implements after school fitness programs in 44 inner-city high schools and other sites.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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  • Camila McConaughey
  • Greenlights Grant Initiative
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