FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 14, 2023, Sacramento, CA – Project Attain has hired its first executive director, the organization announced last week at its annual Summer Summit held at Folsom Lake College. Melanie Dixon steps into the new position immediately. Dixon is Project Attain’s first full-time staff member, an important milestone that marks a major shift from being a regional education initiative to a fully operating, independent nonprofit organization.
Dixon brings an impressive track record of transformative leadership and a deep commitment to student success. She is an accomplished educator and administrator, having previously served as the President of American River College where she spearheaded initiatives to enhance student support services, increase graduation rates, and promote diversity and inclusion on campus.
Project Attain was formed to help individuals over the age of 25 obtain their degree, certificate, or diploma in cases when “life got in the way” of completing their education goals. As the organization’s Executive Director, Dixon will play a pivotal role in shaping Project Attain’s strategic future and in helping to solidify its place as the region’s academic backbone organization for all student populations through broad collaborations with educational anchor institutions, community partners, and private investors. Her vision and expertise will be instrumental in furthering Project Attain’s reach and impact.
Dixon returned to complete her education at age 27, giving her a clear understanding of what it takes to come back to school as an adult. As a “comebacker” herself, she knows the difficulties adults face in finding a pathway back to complete, the importance that adult learners bring to fulfilling workforce and skills gaps in the region, and that helping adults complete their education is a primary means for breaking the cycle of generational poverty.
“Following a thorough and competitive search, the board is thrilled to welcome Melanie Dixon as our Executive Director,” said board chair Anette Smith. “Her proven leadership and passion for educational excellence make her the ideal candidate to lead our organization and its mission to create a brighter and more equitable future for adult students in our community.”
Adults are an often overlooked and underinvested enrollment opportunity for educational institutions, but one that is critical to filling both workforce and enrollment gaps. These individuals—often people of color, working parents, immigrants, veterans, or low-income earners—miss out on family-sustaining jobs, higher incomes, and employment advancement.
“Melanie’s dedication to empowering students from all backgrounds aligns perfectly with Project Attain’s mission to ensure access to quality education for everyone,” said Smith. “All individuals deserve equal access to the life-changing opportunities that a postsecondary education can provide, and we look forward to Melanie getting started.”
Project Attain emerged as a regional initiative in 2018, backed by a board representing private industry, academia, and workforce development professionals. It claimed its nonprofit status in 2020 and has since developed and incubated a comprehensive program of work across the Sacramento area’s academic and workforce landscape.
“More than a million adults in our region lack a diploma or a degree, a concerning number that has risen by 30 percent in the past five years,” Dixon said. “The reasons that so many individuals aren’t finishing their education is varied and complicated, but solutions require a collective approach to furnish more adults with degrees, certificates, and diplomas. When we do that, we greatly improve the economic, social, and cultural quality of our region.”
Focusing on programs and building support systems around the needs of adult learners helps higher education institutions avert an enrollment crisis, a trend that institutions face with accelerating declines in first-time, full-time applicants. Employer workforce shortages and skills gaps could also be filled if the region’s under-credentialed adults are able to complete their education.
“We will work together to provide the resources, support, and opportunities that adults need to achieve their educational goals. No one organization can close the regional education gaps, but together we can,” Dixon continued. “Project Attain exists to break down the complexities and remove the barriers – both for adults ready to return and to help education partners be better situated to get adults back in the classroom. I look forward to collaborating with community partners, educators, and employers to make a lasting difference in our community.”
About Project Attain:
Project Attain is a social impact nonprofit that serves as the gateway for adult students who are ready to resume their education. Project Attain brings education providers together to work in a coordinated fashion and helps establish the systems change needed and programmatic wherewithal to serve adult students. Through a regional collaborative approach, we increase education attainment, improve economic outcomes, fulfill employer workforce needs, and build social and economic mobility for under-credentialed and underinvested populations.