Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month: Our Stories Part One

As Latinx Heritage Month comes to a close, we’d like to share some reflections from Nellie Mae staff and board members on what their heritage means to them. Read these personal and important stories below.

Delia Arellano-Weddleton, Director of Engagement and Partnerships: Mi Historia

I identify as Mejicana, Chicana and Latina and I often deal with the tension that comes from being a first-generation American. There is an expression — ‘Ni de aqui, ni de alla’ which describes how I often feel. I don’t always feel that I belong in this country, but I know that I don’t belong in Mexico either.

My family comes from Guanjuato Mexico and belongs to the Guamare Indigenous community. That history gives me great pride and strength. I come from a line of warriors that have had to overcome many challenges.

I value showing up as who I am 100%, be it my accent, my brown skin or the straight hair that connects me to my indigenous roots.

I find pride in the stories that have been passed down to me, whether it is about curranderas or stories that show the strength of my people. These stories give me strength.

I find great joy, knowing that I’ve fulfilled my parents’ American dream and that they can look down and say’ ‘mija you have done us well’. I find joy in passing the torch to my children, nieces, and nephews so that we don’t lose our stories.

The youth give me eseperanza. Historically, social movements have been led by youth and there are many great examples of how Chicanos, Latinos have been leading change. For example, the 1968 high school walk outs in LA, the Young Lords, and the farm worker huelgas.

Youth are having the difficult conversations that other generations haven’t had, whether it is about LGBTQ rights, anti-Blackness in the Latinx community or climate change. They are our hope and I’ll always support them.

Marcos Lucio Popovich, Program Director of Grantmaking: My Reflections

My family comes from San Luis Potosi and Jalisco, Mexico. For several generations (probably beginning in the late 1800s), my family began traveling from Mexico to harvest crops throughout the United States. They were migrant farmworkers working in Texas, Ohio, Oregon and everywhere in between, picking cotton, tomatoes, plums. My grandmother would say that they were not rich in material things, but that they were rich in faith, rich in family, and rich in culture. She taught me to be proud of being Mexican, of being Mexicano, even when the world told us otherwise. She taught me to be proud of our culture, language, and history, and to be proud of the many contributions we’ve made to the U.S. even though it is not written in our history books.

I’m proud of our resilience and work ethic, our courage to risk it all to create a better life for our families. I pray that when the history is written about our current times that we don’t forget to recognize the contributions of migrant farmworkers during this pandemic. They fed our country while working under dangerous conditions.

When I went to college, I met other Latinos that shared similar experiences: Puerto Ricans, Peruvians, Dominicans, Salvadorans. While we each had our own unique histories and cultures, we realized that we faced similar challenges, had similar interests, and that by creating a bond across our various cultures, we could create power, political power, power that can effectuate change. “In unity, there is strength” was our motto. “In unity, there is strength.”

I carry that with me today. No matter what we call ourselves, Hispano, Latino, Latinx, Chicano, Borinquen, we are stronger when we are united. And, we need to continue to find ways to bridge divides, build community, be inclusive and grow the movement for our collective liberation.

Latinos will soon make up 30% (2050) of the U.S. population. My hope is that we foster a people that knows and remembers its history, maintains its pride in its culture and language, rejects assimilation and welcomes acculturation, has opportunities to thrive and succeed, and charts a new and better path forward. The next generation of activists brings me hope that this is possible. “Si, se puede.” Yes we can!

While Latinx heritage month ends after today,

we think it’s important to celebrate Latinx heritage year round. Therefore, look out for the next part in our series coming soon.

Additionally, we understand that language is ever-evolving — and how individuals with Latinx heritage describe themselves varies. We understand this complexity and invite you to learn more here.

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.

Continuing to whitewash our public institutions will only harm our future prosperity as a nation

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

This past week, Donald Trump directed federal agencies to eliminate anti-racism trainings examining white privilege and critical race theory, calling them “a sickness that cannot be allowed to continue.” And just last month, he shared a two-point education platform for a potential second term. Half of it consisted of “Teach American Exceptionalism.” He briefly touched on the idea during his speech at the Republican National Convention, pledging to “fully restore patriotic education to our schools.” Just this past weekend, in a Sunday morning tweet, Trump claimed he’d be investigating and withdrawing funding from California schools that were using the Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project— which explores how enslavement has shaped American political, social and economic institutions.

Continuing to whitewash our public institutions will only harm our future prosperity as a nation. In his direction to federal officials to ban anti-racism training, Trump is preventing us from achieving the ideals on which our democracy depends. Critical race theory, a framework developed by Derrick Bell and other notable scholars that examines how race and racism is perpetuated through existing legal and cultural systems, is a fundamental frame for examining how white supremacy has become dominant culture in our society. Anti-racism trainings are not “un-American” as Trump touts — but deciding not to engage with our nation’s deep history of white supremacy certainly is.

As a white man who holds positions of power and privilege both in my personal life and in my career, I have firsthand experience diving into examinations of racism and the dominance of white culture. Engaging in anti-racism trainings has at times felt unpleasant, tedious, and tiresome. But that discomfort is unmatched to the pain that people of color in this nation experience on a daily basis.

In urging public schools to “teach American exceptionalism,” Trump paints an incomplete and misleading picture of history. This ideology harms our children and society. Many believe that our education system can transform people’s lives, with the potential to open doors of opportunity that were previously shut. But American exceptionalism, coded in language and policies that sustain a culture organized to maintain the dominance of white people, is the reason why public education has not lived up to its promise.

Through these cowardly actions, Trump is blatantly ignoring how systemic racism undergirds all of our public institutions. Distortions of liberty put forward in his vows to protect suburbs invoke policies like the G.I. bill and redlining, which barred Black Americans from homeownership. It brings us to our current moment — where law enforcement will murder Black people in their homes or on the street, but white killers draped in weapons are peacefully taken into custody— or even handed water.

This is not the time to back away from exploring our nation’s true history and confronting white supremacy culture — one that falsely espouses a value of equality while persistently privileging those already so advantaged and oppressing Black people and others. This is not only about the activities of abhorrent fringe groups. It is about ignoring the unchecked assumptions that shape every aspect of our society.

And rather than retreat from facing these insidious pieces of our past and present, it’s time to ramp things up. Resistance to this work means there is a new level of consciousness about its impact — let’s take advantage of this opportunity!

At the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, we are directing our grantmaking to efforts such as a fund dedicated to supporting nonprofits led by people of color, and another to Black educators leading conversations about race in their schools and communities. And we are looking ahead to supporting deeper attention by all of us — and white people in particular — to what is corrupting our collective spirit as a nation.

We must stay the course. Effective tools and resources that the President is trying to shelve only make this important work easier. 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.”


Continuing to whitewash our public institutions will only harm our future prosperity as a nation was originally published in Nellie Mae Education Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

No justice, no peace. Know justice, know peace.

By: Colleen Quint

Photo Credit: Lorie Shaull

I have a confession: I pretty much stopped watching the news a few weeks ago. The daily litany of lies and self-congratulations while we passed 100,000 dead from the pandemic was just too much. A great day for the Dow, indeed.

And then George Floyd was killed, and I turned away again sickened by what I saw. I felt the range of emotions — sadness, shame, anger — and heard the cries for justice. And I looked away. It was just more than I felt I could take on, more than I wanted to deal with.

And that, my friends, is my White Privilege in action. I can look away and tell myself I feel their pain. I can tell myself I am sympathetic and understanding and supportive. I can say “I would never…” And my silence negates any of that self-congratulatory pablum. My silence is complicity.

What can I as a White woman from Maine say about this? What insight can I bring? The reality is, I cannot bring insight because I have no idea what it is like to be a Black or Brown person in America today. I can see it, I can read about it, I can talk with friends and even strangers of color….but I have not grown up with the daily drumbeat of racism and intolerance literally and figuratively beaten into me.

And as so often is the case, it matters less what you say than what you do. And what I can do is hold myself to account, to acknowledge my White Privilege and to listen and to learn. And I can call out racism when I see it. And I see it plenty. I see active racism in the ways we treated George Floyd and Christian Cooper. I see institutional racism in the ways we educate and incarcerate people of color, and in the disproportionate and devastating impact of the pandemic on Black and Brown and Native communities. And I see casual racism in my own weariness and when I allowed myself to look away. As if it were not my fight. As if it were not my responsibility.

No justice, no peace. Know justice, know peace. Say. Their. Names.

Colleen Quint is a Board Member at the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, and President & CEO of the Alfond Scholarship Fund in Maine


No justice, no peace. Know justice, know peace. was originally published in Nellie Mae Education Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.