National Urban League's Online Hip-Hop Literacy Program Gets $800,000 Verizon Grant

NEW YORK -- The National Urban League's Online Hip-Hop Reader Program, which was launched here this year as a pilot program designed to enhance the reading habits, Internet usage and civic engagement of high school students, will expand its agenda and reach out to more youths thanks to an $800,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation. The foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, also funded the pilot program.

The program features an interactive Web site (www.hiphopreader.com) and a Hip-Hop Leadership Council consisting of literacy experts, educators, hip-hop artists and other celebrities who select reading materials. A check was presented yesterday at the National Urban League's (NUL) 48th Annual Equal Opportunity Day Dinner.

"The Hip-Hop Reader Program is designed to provide urban high school students with inspiration and incentives to increase and enhance their reading habits, to get online, and to participate in our emerging cyber-civilization," said Marc H. Morial, NUL president and CEO. "We salute Verizon for its continued support of this important program, which will help our youths gain the skills needed to compete in the 21st century."

This initiative builds upon Verizon's national campaign to increase literacy levels. Through its signature Verizon Reads program and the Verizon Literacy Network, Verizon works to increase community and corporate awareness, raise funds, encourage collaboration among literacy providers, and engage employees in supporting literacy programs.

"This Verizon Foundation grant reflects our commitment to help organizations implement programs that help youths develop the critical skills required in this broadband age to enhance their academic achievements and the quality of their lives," said John F. Killian,Verizon's senior vice president and chief financial officer-domestic telecom, who is also a member of the NUL Board of Trustees.

Verizon Foundation President Patrick R. Gaston said: "The National Urban League's approach is an innovative and exciting one, and we are pleased to support a program that will help to nurture and build strong communities."

The Hip-Hop Reader Program will also be expanded to other urban cities at a later date. In addition to the program grant, Verizon provided funding for NUL's Black Executive Exchange Program, a leadership and mentoring program operating on the campuses of colleges and universities across the country.

National Urban League

Established in 1910, The Urban League (www.nul.org) is the nation's oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream. Today, the National Urban League, headquartered in New York City, spearheads the non-partisan efforts of its local affiliates. There are over 100 local affiliates of the National Urban League located in 35 states and the District of Columbia providing direct services to more than 2 million people nationwide through programs, advocacy and research.

Verizon Foundation

The Verizon Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications. In 2003, the foundation awarded more than 21,000 grants totaling about $70 million to charitable and nonprofit agencies that focus on improving basic and computer literacy, enriching communities through technology, and creating a skilled work force. The foundation uses its resources in the United States and abroad to develop partnerships in technology and connect them with organizations serving the needs of diverse communities, people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence, and the economically and socially disadvantaged. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation.