JFK, Jr. Institute for Worker Education



In 2000, Reaching Up, a non-profit organization founded in 1989 by John F. Kennedy, Jr., joined with The City University of New York (CUNY) to establish the John F. Kennedy, Jr. Institute. This public/private partnership serves as a vehicle to carry on the work that John Kennedy started.


The John F. Kennedy, Jr. Institute supports workforce development initiatives in health, education and human services. The Institute works with colleges, public and private employers, organized labor, professional associations, advocacy groups, community organizations, foundations and government agencies to:

  • Design and implement collaborative worker education programs
  • Provide career mentoring and college scholarships for exemplary workers
  • Advocate for career ladders, health and educational benefits, and a living wage for frontline workers
  • Support the employment of people with disabilities
  • Conduct workforce research in related areas


The Institute has received funding for CUNY from Federal, State, and City agencies, private foundations and other sources.

Kennedy Fellows Program

In 1989, John F. Kennedy, Jr. started the Kennedy Fellows program for exemplary workers in health, education, and human services occupations. Initially designed for workers that live in New York and attend a City University of New York (CUNY) or State University of New York (SUNY) college, the program has expanded to other countries including Ireland and Haiti. The program is designed to help professionalize the frontline workforce and to support the higher education and career advancement of exemplary staff.  Evaluation data <pdf> show Kennedy Fellows' long-term academic achievement and professional impact on the health and human services field.

During the past 20 years, 800 Fellows have been accepted into the program. They commit to several years of study to complete degrees in fields such as special education, psychology, social work and nursing.  Kennedy Fellows receive scholarships and career mentoring.

Fellows have gone on to become social workers, teachers, nurses, clinicians and administrators and are currently employed by non-profit organizations and public agencies throughout New York. They play leadership roles in a diversified workforce and have emerged as role models for their co-workers and strong advocates for the people they serve. 

The Kennedy Fellows Program was featured in the Fall 2011 issue of CUNY's Salute to Scholars <pdf> magazine.

The program welcomed 22 Kennedy Fellows for 2012-2013, many of whom continued in 2013-2014.