Continuing the fight against COVID-19 and systemic racism

In October, we announced $20 million in funds on top of our planned grantmaking for this year to support work addressing anti-Black racism and COVID relief — especially as both relate to our public education system. Today we are pleased to share that another set of organizations are receiving grants as part of that allocation.

Because of the collective effort required to fight COVID-19 and systemic racism, this year we have intentionally expanded and increased our support for organizations and individuals leading this work through a broad array of investments. The grant recipients we are announcing today represent multiple levels of our educational ecosystem, serving students, families, educators and community members both throughout New England and nationally. This includes community and youth-serving organizations directly supporting young people and families with mental health, mentoring and social and emotional learning; educator-serving organizations prioritizing virtual learning, culturally responsive practice, and wellbeing for adults (especially educators of color); and advocacy, policy and funder partners and intermediaries working closely with communities of color, and also doing antiracist work in white rural and suburban communities.

We are proud to stand behind and with such incredible leaders who are working to achieve a more just education system that lives up to its promise for all young people. We look forward to partnering with these organizations, and further exploring opportunities that continue our commitment to our mission and values: championing efforts that prioritize community goals that challenge racial inequities and advance excellent, student-centered education for all New England youth.

This year we have seen the pain and hardship inflicted by dual pandemics of systemic racism and COVID-19. But we can also find inspiration and motivation from the communities driving us toward a better future as they address these issues — particularly young people who are mobilizing calls for justice here in New England and beyond.

You can read more about these organizations, and the grants they will receive to support their important work, below.

Community and Youth-Serving Organizations

  • North American Indian Center of Boston: ($100,000): To support their mission to empower the Native American community and improve the quality of life of Indigenous peoples
  • IllumiNative: ($90,000): To support their work to challenge negative narratives and ensure accurate and authentic portrayals of Native communities are present in pop culture and media
  • Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness: ($50,000): To support their mission to assist Native American residents with basic needs and educational expenses; provide opportunities for cultural and spiritual enrichment; advance public knowledge and understanding; and work toward racial equality by addressing inequities across the Commonwealth
  • Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe: ($100,000): To support their mission to preserve, promote, and protect the cultural, spiritual and economic well-being of tribal members, educate youth and promote awareness among the public about their tribal history and rights
  • National Indian Education Association: ($50,000): To support their work to advance culture-based educational opportunities for American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians
  • UMass Boston Institute for New England Native American Studies: ($50,000): To support their work in response to the changing priorities of tribal communities as well as their programming and outreach efforts
  • Wabanaki Youth in Science: ($30,000): A program that provides Native youth an opportunity to understand their cultural heritage first-hand and learn ways to manage lands with a broader and more holistic understanding of environmental stewardship
  • Wabanaki Public Health: ($30,000): Wabanaki Public Health is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of Tribal community members through connection, prevention and collaboration
  • National CARES Mentoring Movement: ($150,000): To support local chapters in their work to heal and transform the lives of impoverished Black children by inspiring, recruiting and mobilizing masses of caring Black men and women to mentor and nourish them
  • He Is Me Institute: ($50,000): To support the Institute’s “I AM King” Mentoring program in Boston, which is designed for men of color to facilitate activities that provide opportunities for boys of color to gain the social emotional skills and language needed to manage their own lives and identities
  • Social Impact Center: ($50,000): To support the Center’s work to prevent and reduce the impact of violence by addressing immediate and basic needs such as housing, food, clothing and public safety for the disenfranchised residents of the City of Boston
  • Sisters Unchained: ($50,000): Founded in 2015, Sisters Unchained is a prison abolitionist organization in Boston dedicated to building community and power with young women affected by parental incarceration through radical education, healing, art, sisterhood and activism
  • Worcester Education Collaborative: ($30,000): The Worcester Education Collaborative is an independent advocacy and action organization that works to ensure students in Worcester’s public schools are given the opportunity to succeed at the highest possible level

Advocacy, Policy, Funder Partners, Intermediaries

  • Decolonizing Wealth Project (DWP): ($150,000): To support DWP’s grant funds for addressing issues brought on by COVID-19 and supporting Indigenous communities working for transformative social change
  • Resist Foundation: ($150,000): Resist supports people’s movements for justice and liberation and distributes resources back to communities at the forefront of change, while amplifying their stories of building a better world
  • Grantmakers for Girls of Color: ($100,000): A national funder collaborative that supports Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and Pacific American girls in the United States — mobilizing philanthropic resources so Black girls and gender expansive youth of color can achieve equity and justice
  • Lawyers for Civil Rights: ($50,000): Lawyers for Civil Rights fosters equal opportunity and fights discrimination on behalf of people of color and immigrants through legal action, education, and advocacy in the Boston area
  • Drawing Democracy: ($50,000): Drawing Democracy brings together philanthropic partners to support Massachusetts grassroots leaders and organizations promoting a transparent and accountable redistricting process, while empowering communities by creating fair voting districts
  • ACLU Local Chapters: ($50,000): The ACLU works in the courts to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States
  • Community Change Inc.: ($100,000): CCI offers public discussions, events and workshops for antiracist learning and action
  • SURJ Education Fund: ($200,000): SURJ is a national network of groups and individuals working to undermine white supremacy and work toward racial justice
  • GBH Educational Foundation: ($50,000): To support GBH in building tools, media and research to support educators and families in antiracist, equity-enhanced teaching and learning
  • Daily Kos Education Fund [Prism]: ($50,000): Prism is a BIPOC-led non-profit news outlet that centers the people, places, and issues currently underreported by national media. They are committed to producing journalism that treats Black, Indigenous and people of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community, and other invisibilized groups as the experts on their own lived experiences

Educator-Serving Organizations

  • LearnLaunch: ($350,000): To support LearnLaunch’s work in Massachusetts to provide programs and services that are helping educators around Massachusetts build equitable remote learning opportunities
  • Highlander Institute: ($300,000): A non-profit organization based in Providence, RI that partners with communities to imagine and create more equitable, relevant and effective schools. Highlander works with schools and districts on effective change management, culturally responsive instruction, and now responses to COVID-19
  • LiberatEd: ($350,000): LiberatEd offers an antiracist approach to social and emotional learning and healing, which includes student, teacher and family and community engagement resources, as well as an educator training and coaching program
  • UnboundEd: ($350,000): UnboundEd is dedicated to empowering teachers by providing free, high-quality standards-aligned resources for the classroom, the opportunity for immersive training, and the option of support through their website offerings
  • The Teaching Lab: ($350,000): The Teaching Lab’s mission is to fundamentally shift the paradigm of teacher professional learning for educational equity. They envision a world where teachers and students thrive together in communities that enable lifelong learning and meaningful lives.
  • The Community Learning Collaborative: ($150,000): To support the Collaborative’s work in providing academic support during remote learning as well as enrichment and engagement opportunities before and after school, centered on affirming children’s culture and linguistic backgrounds

As we close out our year of grantmaking, and continue to work responsibly position resources in communities and organizations that are doing good work at the intersection of public education, fighting anti-racism and responding to the needs elevated to the pandemic, we’re also excited to support the following organizations:

Strong Women, Strong Girls: ($25,000): Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) is a nonprofit organization championing the next generation of female leaders through our innovative, multi-generational mentoring programs. As we foster a strong female community, SWSG is building a brighter, broader future for all girls and women.

Cambridge Families of Color Coalition: ($30,000): The Cambridge Families of Color Coalition (CFCC) is a collective of Families and Students of Color working to uplift, empower, celebrate, and nurture our students and each other. Their work is rooted in racial, social, and economic equity. Our goal is to see Cambridge Public Schools be a place where Students of Color thrive academically, socially, emotionally, physically, and in spirit.

The Prosperity Foundation: ($150,000): The Prosperity Foundation (TPF) believes that by creating a participatory philanthropic vehicle focused on improving the lives of Connecticut’s Black communities.

Cambridge Community Foundation: ($50,000): The Cambridge Community Foundation serves as Cambridge’s local giving platform — built, funded, and guided by residents since 1916. They are a convener and catalyst for transformative change.

Boston Debate League: ($50,000): The Boston Debate League offers debate and argumentation programs for young people in Greater Boston, with a commitment to serving students of color and other students who have been denied these educational opportunities.

Maine-Wabanaki REACH: ($50,000): Wabanaki REACH is a cross-cultural collaboration that successfully supported the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Latinos for Education: ($150,000): The organization’s mission is to develop, place and connect essential Latino leaders in the education sector. We are building an ecosystem of Latino advocates by infusing Latino talent into positions of influence.

Education Reimagined: ($100,000): Education Reimagined is firmly committed to the creation of a racially just and equitable world where every child is loved, honored, and supported such that their boundless potential is unleashed.

Education Funder Strategy Group: ($200,000): The Education Funder Strategy Group (EFSG) is a learning community of leading foundations focused on education policy from early childhood to college and career readiness and success.

The Welcome Project: ($100,000): The Welcome Project builds the collective power of immigrants to participate in and shape community decisions. Through programming that strengthens the capacity of immigrant youth, adults and families to advocate for themselves and influence schools, government, and other institutions.


Continuing the fight against COVID-19 and systemic racism was originally published in Nellie Mae Education Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Welcoming New Team Members to the Foundation

Over the past year, Nellie Mae has grown our work in several ways, from the implementation of our new grant strategy focused on advancing racial equity in public education, to continuing to learn how to best serve as an engaged and supportive grantmaker. We have also expanded as a staff over these past several months and are excited to welcome five new team members who together bring a vast array of knowledge and experience to our organization.

Alex Toussaint, Senior Accountant

Alex Toussaint joined the Foundation in April 2020. Prior to joining Nellie Mae, Alex worked as an independent business consultant for small businesses, nonprofits, and individuals around business strategy and personal finance. He also has experience as an elementary school educator. Alex is passionate about promoting financial literacy, as well as educational justice.

Julita Bailey-Vasco, Senior Communications Manager

Julita Bailey-Vasco joined the Foundation in October 2020. Prior to her work at Nellie Mae, Julita worked at Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit that leads the workforce and education system in achieving economic advancement for all. Julita is committed to the work of an equitable education system in hopes of restoring a fraction of what has been stolen from Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color.

Michael G. Williams Jr., Program Officer

Michael G. Williams Jr. joined the Foundation in October 2020. Prior to his work at Nellie Mae, Michael worked at Duet, a non-profit that partners with the University of Southern New Hampshire to help students of color enroll in and complete degree programs. Michael brings a strong dedication to community-centered service; this commitment has led him to roles in community organizing, politics, and nonprofit case management and partnership development focused on helping young people achieve their educational and career goals.

Kathiana Amazan, Program Associate

Kathiana Amazan started at Nellie Mae in November 2020. Prior to joining the Foundation, Kathiana served as the Operations Coordinator for the Letters Foundation, an organization that provided one-time humanitarian grants to individuals experiencing hardship when no other options existed. A first-generation student and Boston Public Schools graduate, Kathiana believes all students should have access to equitable public education and opportunities to realize their full potential.

Lucas Codognolla, Senior Manager of Partnerships and Advocacy

Lucas Codognolla is joining the foundation at the end of December 2020. Prior to joining Nellie Mae, Lucas served as the founding Executive Director of Connecticut Students for a Dream (C4D), a youth-led, statewide network fighting for the rights of undocumented youth and their families. A community organizer at heart, Lucas is a relationship-builder and passionate about using his positionality to leverage resources for and with communities of color.


Welcoming New Team Members to the Foundation was originally published in Nellie Mae Education Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Prioritizing Mental Wellnesss Amidst Virtual Learning

Prioritizing Mental Wellness Amidst Virtual Learning

As the two pandemics of COVID-19 and anti-Black racism rage on, young people across our region are faced with compounding burdens that are putting strains on their personal lives, well-being and educational experience.

As students ourselves, we know full well how the effects of isolation, nationwide protests around systemic racism and seeing the murders of more Black people at the hands of police, coupled with experiencing remote learning for the first time, and different family circumstances have had on our mental health.

We also recognize that remote learning is not the same experience for every student. Across our region, many students do not have reliable access to high-speed internet access, and many young people have had to take on the roles of caretaking or working to support their families, making it difficult to join remote classes or complete assignments on time.

We are proud to have collaborated with The Nellie Mae Education Foundation to design a youth-led rapid response grant fund aimed at supporting young people across the region with remote learning and mental health supports. We invite you to read the full Request for Proposals here.

Lydia Mann, Granite State Organizing Project

Mealaktey Sok, ARISE (Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education)

Niamiah Jefferson, ARISE (Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education)


Prioritizing Mental Wellnesss Amidst Virtual Learning was originally published in Nellie Mae Education Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Sharing Our Commitments

Photo Credit: Tim Dennell

Over the course of this year, we’ve witnessed the deep inequities in our society laid bare by the two pandemics of COVID and systemic racism. We’ve seen how these forces have disproportionately negatively affected Black, Brown and Indigenous communities. As a philanthropic organization, we know we have a duty to use our power and privilege to do more to combat systemic, anti-Black racism, especially in our public education system. The truth is that the reality of this double pandemic has forced us to apply a magnifying glass to the deep inequities of our public education system and our society at large.

We cannot go on as business as usual. We know that we have continued work to do in ensuring that our internal culture and grantmaking practices are not reinforcing white supremacy culture. This requires being relentless in acting and putting our money where our values are. Our stated value of operating with a racial equity lens means that we must take necessary urgent action in this moment while planning for this work in the long haul.

Therefore, in addition to our planned grantmaking in 2020 and the early interventions taken at the beginning of the pandemic, we are today announcing an allocation of an additional $20M this year to support work addressing anti-Black racism and COVID relief, especially as both relate to our public education system. These grants are in addition to the more than $10M we are distributing this year as part of our previously adopted strategy.

It is evident that COVID and the fight against anti-Black racism will require the contributions of many organizations and individuals — therefore, we are increasing and expanding our support through a broad array of additional investments to communities, local, regional, and national organizations, and schools as they continue to do incredible work to address the needs faced by those they serve and represent.

We recognize that the fight for racial equity in public education is intrinsically connected to the fight against anti-Black racism. Through these additional investments, we are supporting the important work of organizations at multiple levels of the ecosystem working to fight for a more just and equitable future.

We recognize that our actions are just a step. We are actively exploring how we might use additional monies in the years to come. This means looking beyond traditional allocations to better show our long-term commitment to our values and mission: championing efforts that prioritize community goals that challenge racial inequities and advance excellent, student-centered education for all New England youth.

At this time, we are continuing to be in conversation with others as we grow in this work. At this time we are not accepting unsolicited proposals, but if you are interested in introducing your organization to us we invite you to fill out this form.

Grants will be made in support of the following organizations:

• The Movement For Black Lives ($2,500,000): To provide general operating support

• The Schott Foundation For Public Education ($2,250,000): To provide capacity building and operating support for work focused on racial equity

• Haymarket People’s Fund ($750,000): To provide capacity building and operating support for work focused on racial equity

• MA Immigrant COVID-19 Collaborative: ($750,000): To provide capacity building and operating support for work focused on racial equity

• African American Policy Forum ($750,000): To provide general operating support

• Center for Youth & Community Leadership In Education (CYCLE): ($600,000): To provide capacity building and operating support for work focused on racial equity

• Education for Liberation Network ($500,000): To provide general operating support

• Abolitionist Teaching Network ($500,000): To provide general operating support

• NAACP Empowerment Programs, Inc. ($500,000): To provide core support for their education programs

• Black Futures Lab ($500,000): To provide general operating support

• Black Lives Matter Boston ($100,000): To provide general operating support

• CT-CORE Organize Now! ($100,000): To provide general operating support

• Waterbury Bridge to Success Community Partnership ($100,000) (Waterbury, CT)

• Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership (LEAP) ($100,000) (New Haven, CT): To provide general operating support

• Diversity Talks (Providence, RI) ($100,000): To provide general operating support

• United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) (Lowell, MA) ($100,000): To provide general operating support

• FaithActs for Education (Bridgeport, CT) ($100,000): To provide general operating support

• African Caribbean American Parents of Children with Disabilities, Inc. (AFCAMP) (Hartford, CT) ($100,000): To provide general operating support

• Building One Community Corp (Stamford, CT) ($100,000): To provide general operating support

• African Community Education Program (ACE) (Worcester, MA) ($100,000): To provide general operating support

• SABURA (Brockton, MA) ($100,000): To provide general operating support

• Brockton Interfaith (Brockton, MA) ($100,000): To provide general operating support

• Progresso Latino (Central Falls, RI) ($100,000): To provide general operating support

• Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC) ($175,000): To provide general operating support

A handful of these grants are to current grantees to expand their work around COVID and the fight against anti-Black racism:

• Students for Educational Justice (New Haven, CT) ($47,250): To provide general operating support

• Hearing Youth Voices (New London, CT) ($47,250): To provide general operating support

• Citywide Youth Coalition (New Haven, CT) ($47,250): To provide general operating support

• Blue Hills Civic Association (Hartford, CT) ($47,250): To provide general operating support

• Revere Youth in Action (Revere, MA) ($47,250): To provide general operating support

• Student Immigrant Movement (Massachusetts) ($47,250): To provide general operating support

• Worcester Youth Civics Union (Worcester, MA) ($47,250): To provide general operating support

• Maine Inside Out (Maine) ($47,250): To provide general operating support

• Portland Outright (Portland, ME) ($47,250): To provide general operating support

• The Root Social Justice Center, Youth 4 Change (Brattleboro, VT) ($47,250): To provide general operating support

• Outright Vermont (Vermont) ($47,250): To provide general operating support

Additionally, we are currently working to support 10 New England school districts servicing communities with large numbers of Black and Brown children and their families that have been heavily impacted by COVID-19. These grants will address the complex, interrelated problems posed by COVID-19 and anti-Black racism as schools reopen.

We know this is only one important part of how we can show up as funders at this time. We remain committed to learning, adapting, and improving; to showing up as allies working to combat anti-Blackness in our education system, using our platform and privilege to amplify the leadership of our partners, listening to those who are more proximate and directly connected to this work in communities, everyday. We see you. We hear you. We stand with and behind those that live and breathe the realities and impact of this work daily.

We envision a future where all students have access to excellent and equitable public education that prepares them to succeed and thrive in community. Yet, we understand that for many young people, especially our Black, Brown, Indigenous and other students of color — this simply isn’t true. In the words of John Lewis, “Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble.” Let’s continue that “good trouble!”


Sharing Our Commitments was originally published in Nellie Mae Education Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Statement from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation on “Patriotic Education”

Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation condemns any efforts by the federal government to silence curriculum and frameworks that explicitly address the centrality of enslavement in the historical narrative of our country. As an education funder, we believe that nurturing a democracy means committing courageous attention to our nation’s history in order to prepare for the future. Continuing to whitewash our public institutions perpetuates violence and injustices, and will only harm our future prosperity as a country. Actions by the federal government to develop commissions to promote “patriotic education,” and threats to defund schools that utilize projects such as the New York Time’s 1619 Project continue to harm and erase the histories and experiences of entire groups of people. This poses danger to our young people, and the future of our nation. It is not until we are able to confront our original sin as a nation founded on a bedrock of white supremacy culture that we will truly be able to “make America great.”


Statement from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation on “Patriotic Education” was originally published in Nellie Mae Education Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Reopening New England Schools

As New England communities grapple with what learning will look like in the fall, we’ve sponsored a series of conversations across the region that have invited families, educators, young people, health professionals and others to discuss what equitable reopening will look like. We invite you to watch recordings of each of the conversations.

Massachusetts:The Digital Divide: Education, Race and Virtual Learning,” The Boston Globe

New Hampshire: “Live From Home: Navigating Back-to-School as a Family,” New Hampshire Public Radio

Maine: Reopening Schools: Maine Considers Complex Factors in How to Resume K-12 Schooling in the Fall,” Maine Public

Rhode Island: “Reopening Rhode Island Schools,” Center for Youth and Community Leadership in Education (CYCLE), Parents Leading for Educational Equity (PLEE), Latino Policy Institute (LPI), Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE), Youth in Action (YIA), Rhode Island Center for Justice

Connecticut:Connecticut Conversations: Is School Safe?Connecticut Public

Upcoming- Vermont: School Reopening Forum,” Voices for Vermont’s Children (taking place August 26–28)


Reopening New England Schools was originally published in Nellie Mae Education Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Educators for Black Lives

Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

I vividly recall the first time I led a conversation on race in my classroom. The conversation happened on Monday, February 27th, the day after Trayvon Martin was murdered by George Zimmerman. At the time, I was a 22-year old resident in the Boston Teacher Residency program.

The conversation with my sixth-grade scholars happened just as schools were reopening from February vacation week. I had been in the program for seven months and had recently become the lead teacher for two classes of students.

Having this conversation with sixth graders was not something I had been trained to do. In fact, I had never imagined having this conversation. We discussed race in my teacher residency program, but facilitating a conversation centered on race with sixth graders stemming from an incident involving police brutality aren’t one and the same.

At the time, my sixth graders and I were reading Maniac Magee, a fictional novel that explores the topic of racial segregation. In the week leading to February vacation, we had created a visual representation of the West and East Ends in this fictional town the protagonist frequently crossed and that separated the Black and White communities.

While we discussed racial segregation in the context of the novel and looked at the New York Times’ Mapping Segregation map in Boston, the discussion my mentor and I had prepared to have quickly made the themes of the novel so much more real.

As my enthusiastic sixth graders all clad in school uniform entered the classroom, we gathered in a circle, which was a contrast from the usual rows in the classroom. My mentor teacher and I both took deep breaths preparing to discuss the elephant in the room, and in many classrooms and communities across this country.

This was my first conversation with my students about Black lives being murdered. I was not okay, but I needed to make sure they were. It was my duty to make sure they were okay, not only because of my identity as an educator, but also because of my identity as a Black woman.

We first asked students to jot down what they heard on the news and at home. They provided so many different tidbits and details of the story: “Black boy”, “iced tea”, “Skittles”, “murder”, “Florida”, “going home”, “hoodie”, “fight”, “gun”, “going to jail.”

From this initial entry point, we then discussed how they felt about the murder of Trayvon Martin. Some students shared they felt great sadness. Others expressed anger and fear. Many voiced worries for Trayvon’s family and friends. Lastly, students asserted a need for justice and fairness.

From this conversation, we were able to explore the themes in the text more fully. Without prompting, students rapidly connected the novel to the real world. They openly challenged the racism both in the text and in the real world. This first conversation was a defining moment in my teaching career; it transformed my teaching practice and strengthened my rapport with students. This conversation let my students know that I saw them, fully.

Unfortunately, I would go on to facilitate many similar conversations year after year — with the murders of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, and Sandra Bland. And while I became more skilled at leading these conversations, they were never easy. The emotional weight, from my students and myself, of it all, always lingered.

I learned to center conversations about race and anti-Blackness into my school’s core texts through the use of questions like, “What does the reference of Othello to a “black sheep” or “Moor” reveal about racism and inclusion in Venice, Italy?” After all, how can you teach the themes in Othello without discussing race and anti-Blackness?

Still reflecting on this experience years later, I realize that although this conversation brought great fear and anxiety, it was absolutely necessary in the classroom. Students, like their educators, are watching the news and using social media. They are having these conversations at home. I am reminded that we need to have these conversations in classrooms regardless of how uncomfortable, afraid and emotionally naked we may feel. Not talking about race in classrooms further invalidates the real-world experiences of the Black community and Black youth.

As a former Black educator, I am incredibly proud and overjoyed to announce today that the Nellie Mae Education Foundation is launching a Rapid Response RFP that centers Black educators and those in service of Black lives inside and outside of their classrooms. I invite you to read more about the opportunity here.


Educators for Black Lives was originally published in Nellie Mae Education Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Introducing Our New Community Advisory

In January, we announced our new strategy to make advancing racial equity in public education the central focus of our grantmaking. Today, we are excited to share another important development — the onboarding of our new Community Advisory.

We are tremendously grateful to our inaugural Community Advisory, whose contributions last year guided the development of our new grantmaking strategy. As philanthropy seeks to address longstanding inequities that have only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that voices from New England communities continue to be involved in foundation decision-making. This year’s cohort, again consisting of individuals who have deep relationships in the communities they represent, will work with our staff and Board to provide perspective and guidance as we implement our new strategy.

Collaborating with this talented array of partners will help ensure that community insights are consistently part of all the work we pursue. We will continue to ask ourselves how our work will ensure that affected communities are driving change. We are grateful and better as a Foundation for the partnership of our Community Advisors in defining our path ahead.

We hope you will join us in welcoming the following members to our new Community Advisory, and we look forward to keeping you updated on our work together.

Grace is the Executive Director for Communications and Community Partnerships for Portland Public Schools. In this role, she oversees the district’s work on family engagement, youth development, and partnerships with community-based organizations. She is an educator with specialization in English Language Learner education, immigrant education and has international experience with non-governmental agencies specializing in refugee work. She is passionate about multi-racial and cross-class coalition centering people of color in leadership to achieve social and racial justice.

Ina is a Program Coordinator at WEE. She previously worked at the Attorney General’s Office as a Program Coordinator for the Safe Neighborhood Initiative and later as a Legislative Aide for then State Rep Marie St. Fleur. After working for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Ina moved on to the private sector and worked at Pearson Education where her last position was Inventory Analyst.

Olga is the Executive Director of Women Encouraging Empowerment (WEE) located in Revere, Massachusetts. Olga helped launch the Revere Education Justice Alliance (REJA) and was one of the first immigrant women to serve in a leadership role on Revere High School’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). She is an alumnus of Revere Public Schools’ Parent Leadership Training Institute.

Manuel is the Head of School at the Cambridge Street Upper School. He has over 30 years’ experience working as an educator in numerous communities in Massachusetts including Boston and Taunton. Manuel views himself as not only a school leader, but also a leader in anti-racist work.

Mario is the Chief of Social, Emotional and Behavioral Learning at Holyoke Public Schools in Massachusetts. Prior to that, he was the Managing Director of Social Emotional Learning at UP Education Network, also in Massachusetts, and the Director of School Climate and Culture for Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut.

Marquis is the Founder and Executive Director of Elevated Thought, a creative arts youth organizing group in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where he has deep roots. He holds a master’s in education and previously taught in Revere and Boston, and is currently pursuing his Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership at Northeastern University.

Helen is a student in Lawrence Public Schools and a youth member of Elevated Thought, a creative arts youth organizing group in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Milagros is a high school junior in Lawrence Public Schools and a youth member of Elevated Thought, a creative arts youth organizing group in Lawrence, Massachusetts. She is also a member of her high school’s Student Government Association, and a winner of the Citizenship Award and the “Be Kind, Be Humble” Award. After high school, she plans to major in the health sciences.

Michele is a Senior Associate for Everyday Democracy. She is also Director and Co-founder for New Hampshire Listens at the UNH Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. Her work on and off campus is focused on inclusive civic engagement, community problem-solving, and building coalitions for community-initiated change efforts. She works to bring people together across perspectives and backgrounds to solve problems and create equitable solutions for their communities.

Sarah is Executive Director of Granite State Organizing Project. She has over twenty years’ organizing experience and is highly engaged in grassroots work. She also founded Young Organizers United (YOU), a group of high schoolers from various backgrounds who are dedicated to strengthening multi-issue and multi-racial coalitions designed to overcome disparate treatment in high schools.

Amaka is a youth empowerment coordinator for Manchester Public Schools, focused on centering youth voices and creating space for intergenerational dialogue and relationships. Additionally, she serves as a School Climate Specialist to provide support to middle school staff, student, and families. Ashley has over five years teaching experience within the Manchester Public Schools. In addition, she organizes the district’s Youth Equity Squad. Ashley is dedicated to positively impacting many lives of all ages, especially the minds of the future. She thrives from serving others and creating a positive atmosphere.

Mohamed is a student in Manchester Public Schools and a member of Granite State Organizing Project’s Young Organizers United (YOU), a group of high schoolers from various backgrounds who are dedicated to strengthening multi-issue and multi-racial coalitions designed to overcome disparate treatment in high schools.

Julia is a high school junior in Manchester Public Schools and a primary leader and member of Granite State Organizing Project’s Young Organizers United (YOU), a group of high schoolers from various backgrounds who are dedicated to strengthening multi-issue and multi-racial coalitions designed to overcome disparate treatment in high schools. Julia’s goals after high school include attending college.

  • Tauheedah Jackson, Institute for Educational Leadership, Connecticut

Tauheeda serves as the deputy director for IEL’s Coalition for Community Schools, where she is responsible for engaging local communities and supervising the programs, logistics, and daily operations of the Coalition. She brings nearly 20 years of experience working in youth development, local government, philanthropy, school districts and out-of-school time programs.

  • Chanda Womack, ARISE, Rhode Island

Chanda is the Founding Executive Director of Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE) located in Providence, Rhode Island. She was recently recognized as Studio 10 and Providence Monthly’s Who to Watch in 2020. She was also the recipient of the NAACP Thurgood Marshall Award, the YWCA’s Women in Achievement Award and the Providence Youth Student Movement POWER Award.

  • Jeny Daniels, ARISE, Rhode Island

Jeny is a youth leader at ARISE and class president at her school. She also participates in outdoor track and field, theater, and orchestra. Jeny enjoys these activities because she can make a difference and express herself.

  • Krisnu Chuon, ARISE, Rhode Island

Krisnu is a youth leader at ARISE. They are also a volunteer at their school library, Cranston Central Public Library, and Miriam Hospital.

Karla is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Equity Institute where she oversees the organization’s creative vision and leads strategic initiatives that focus on developing equitable polices and practices. In her previous roles, she has worked to develop frameworks and resources centered in equity, culturally responsive teaching, and personalized learning. Karla is also a strong advocate in her state and beyond voicing the importance of recruiting and retaining teachers of color. She is a Deeper Learning Equity Fellow and was recently selected as a Pahara NextGen Fellow, Winter 2020 Cohort.

Christine is a teacher at Tuttle Middle School in South Burlington, Vermont where she teaches sixth grade Social Studies. Christine aims to place relationships at the center of her work and is committed to dismantling systems of oppression and decolonizing education together with her colleagues in the school’s Diversity Working Group and students in Peer Leadership.

Infinite is a staff member of the Vermont Equity Project, which aims to deepen understanding across the state and among policymakers on how the state’s funding formula discussion needs to be linked to increasing quality education for all of Vermont’s students. Infinite was formerly responsible for the Lead Community Partner (LCP) work in Burlington and Winooski.

Judy is the Executive Director of Gedakina, a multigenerational endeavor to strengthen and revitalize the cultural knowledge and identity of Native American youth and families from across New England. Judy is a life-long award-winning educator who specializes in sharing indigenous knowledge with children, and is also on the Board of Directors of OYATE and the Native American Scouting Association.

Update from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation on COVID-19 Response

Dear Grantee Partners, Friends, and Community:

We know that many of you are providing direct support to educators, community members, young people and their families as they navigate this pandemic and the inequities that only become exacerbated in such a situation. As a philanthropic organization, we remain steadfast in upholding our responsibility to support New England communities during this challenging time.

Today, we want to share some updates around additional flexibility for current grantee partners, and also share an update on some new funding commitments we have made as part of our ongoing COVID-19 response.

Extending Flexibility

As a follow up to the note we shared about changes in the Foundation’s operations and grant expectations, we hope the following measures will lift some of the burden from our current grantee partners during this unprecedented time, especially for organizations that are in need of additional supports to maintain and sustain themselves during this difficult time.

· We are now offering grantee partners the opportunity to convert any restricted funds to general operating support or to support work around COVID-19 response, to the extent that it is helpful to your organization.

· We’re providing the option to request payments earlier than scheduled.

· We can provide a no-cost grant extension for your grant if needed.

· In lieu of an extensive final report, we welcome a brief final report that includes a spending report and describes how your funds were used.

If you are interested in pursuing any of the above opportunities, please reach out to your Program Officer to communicate your intent, including your most current spend-to-date report so that we can better organize ourselves to support you. We will also be doing our part to reach out to you in the near future to determine how else we may be of service. In the meantime, we are available as needed to provide support as you continue to navigate these challenging times.

COVID-19 Response

As an organization committed to advancing racial equity, we recognize that communities of color are disproportionately affected by this virus and the racism that stems from it. We have been humbled by the response to our Racism is a Virus Too Rapid Response Fund and were reminded that there is so much work to be done on many fronts to fight racism, xenophobia, and Sinophobia.

Today, we are announcing a set of grantees from this fund, aimed at responding to the hate crimes and bias against Asian American communities resulting from COVID-19:

Additionally, we want to share an update on another set of grants we are making to support New England communities during this pandemic:

· Boston COVID-19 Response Fund, The Boston Foundation: $25,000

· Hartford Foundation for Public Giving COVID-19 Response Fund: $30,000

· Maine Community Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund: $50,000

· Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund: $50,000

· New Hampshire Charitable Foundation Community Crisis Action Fund: $50,000

· Rhode Island Foundation/United Way of RI COVID-19 Response Fund: $50,000

· Supporting Organizing Work Connecticut COVID-19 Response Fund, CT Council on Philanthropy: $30,000

· Vermont Community Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund: $50,000

We invite others who are interested in contributing to these funds and organizations to reach out to us to learn more.

This crisis calls upon us to think about the world we want to build as we move ahead. For us, that means remaining committed to serving our communities as trusted partners in advancing racial equity throughout this region. We recognize that the impacts of this pandemic will be long-lasting; therefore, we are on this journey for the long haul.

We are keeping you in our hearts and are grateful for your partnership.

In solidarity,

Nick Donohue
President & CEO
Nellie Mae Education Foundation

Nominations are Now Open for the Lawrence W. O’Toole Teacher Leadership Awards!

We all know that teachers are amazing people — after all, they are the ones shaping the minds of our future world leaders!

At the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, we’ve had the chance to see the impact of many individual educators, but have also seen the powerful force of teachers working together and advocating for innovation outside of their individual classrooms. Our O’Toole Awards are meant to recognize those educators who have not only led innovations in their own classrooms, but have served as leaders, advocates, and champions for equitable, student-centered approaches to learning at scale. Last year, we honored 12 amazing educators from across the region who are doing things like serving as student-centered coaches, leading professional learning series, and creating video series around student-centered learning.

This year, we are again asking the public to nominate teacher leaders who are advocates for student-centered approaches to learning. We’ve also been doing some work internally at Nellie Mae to learn about the ways that student-centered approaches to learning can address inequities in education. This has been part of a bigger process at the foundation to assess our organizational strategy through the lens of racial equity. So this year, we are also asking teachers how they are addressing inequities, including racial inequities, through their advocacy of student-centered approaches.

From now until April 27th, we’re accepting nominations for our Lawrence W. O’Toole Teacher Leadership Awards. We’ll select up to 12 winners from across New England to receive grants of $15,000 each to use to advance student-centered approaches to learning at scale. Award recipients will be recognized at an award ceremony in Boston on November 2nd. To nominate a teacher (even if it’s yourself!) read more about the process here.