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.

An Educator’s Letter to Families in This Moment

This letter was written by Manuel J. Fernandez, Head of School at Cambridge Street Upper School (CSUS) in Cambridge, MA to CSUS Families

Dear CSUS Parents and Caregivers,

1968 was a pivotal year in my upbringing. I was in my early teens, and it was the year of assassinations (notably Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy), urban protests, college campus takeovers, the rise of the anti-Vietnam protests, and so much more. Growing up in Brockton, Massachusetts, I felt pretty invisible as a Black Cape Verdean boy among my white classmates. I only felt noticed when one of them would call me the N-word or bullied me verbally and physically. I know now that I suffered from internalized racism, which was burrowed into me every time my white teachers were dismissive of my racial harassment concerns. I did not like being Black, and it seemed no one else liked it either. The only Black teacher I had was when I was a high school senior. He was the P.E. teacher, and he wasn’t too impressed with my unathletic and uncoordinated self. I am not sure what was internalized in my psyche from that, but I certainly didn’t fit the stereotype of a tall Black boy.

I observed many changes in society at that time and within my self-identity. In the ensuing years, I latched on to the Black Consciousness movement spurred on by my Uncle and Aunt’s membership in the Black Panther Party. I became more and more racially conscious through the readings of James Baldwin, W.E. B. DuBois, Toni Morrison, and the literature of the Harlem Renaissance period. As I came to know of the many contributions Black people had made to the country and the world, I felt proud of being Black. I was becoming increasingly aware of my Cape Verdean ancestry, particularly about our history in southeastern Massachusetts. I was equally proud.

As a young educator, I endeavored to support the aspirations of my Black students and advocate for their needs with higher-ups. I became increasingly aware that my white students and the white educators I worked with needed my support to embrace an anti-racist lens. We learned from our consultant Beverly Daniel Tatum (author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria) that anti-racism was an active choice. Choosing not to be actively engaged in the dismantling of racism in our society was to implicitly or explicitly support racism. This past week, I have heard from scores of those students, Black, White, Asian, Latinx, and LGBTQ accomplices. I am so proud of these many women and men who, like me, have made the struggle for racial equity their life’s work.

This week that pride has been tempered by feelings of rage, fear, and despair. As the father of three Black daughters and two young Black grandsons, I cannot look at the graphic videos of unarmed Black men and women being murdered without seeing my family members in harm’s way. They all embody some of my voice — proud, unapologetic, and strident on all issues of equity. I caution my daughters often to consider their surroundings when they publicly object to inequity. They don’t always heed my advice.

As a Black school leader, I have struggled with ways to support our scholars devoid of my emotions at a time when they need clarity and perspective. Since its founding in 2012, CSUS has centered equity in our mission. At this time, I find comfort in the leadership and advocacy of so many of our CSUS educators. They have stepped up in a big way and have responded to scholar inquiry on the horrific events of the past few months and engaged scholars with strategies rooted in an anti-racist lens to help CSUS move forward.

I have spent my forty years as an educator as a staunch advocate for equity and anti-racism. It has not always made me friends, but it has created opportunities and a vision for all the scholars that I have been fortunate to serve. I will continue to do that as long as I am able. I will stand for my scholars and with my colleagues to advance anti-racism in our school and the community. There is no other choice. I hope you choose to do the same within your sphere of influence.

1968 changed America. Unfortunately, the change was incomplete, and many of the small gains have little influence on our present situation. 2020 is changing our society, whether because of the pandemic or because of the heightened awareness of the anti-Black racism and other forms of bigotry that pervade every aspect of our society. We can embrace the change and stay the course. But the new day that we want for all of our children and grandchildren will not be realized unless we all step up.

Thanks for reading.

Peace, Manuel

An Educator’s Letter to Families in This Moment was originally published in Nellie Mae Education Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Silence is Complicity

At the time we’ve reached the unthinkable milestone of 100,000 deaths as a result of COVID-19, we’ve also witnessed the murders of too many Black Americans at the hands of violence and white supremacy: George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Sean Read, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor. These are merely a few of the names of Black individuals that have died at the hands of racism — there are unfortunately many more that have gone unnoticed and unheard of by the public. Racism is a virus too.

The COVID-19 pandemic has just pulled back a curtain on the racial inequities that are foundational to our country. In Wisconsin and Michigan, the percentages of affected residents who were Black were more than twice as high as the proportion of Black people living in those states overall. Here in Massachusetts, the highest per capita rates of infection reside in working-class immigrant cities like Chelsea and Brockton, who both have high concentrations of people of color.

How our society moves forward depends on our ability to understand why these inequities exist, and the actions we take to address them. As Merlin Chowkawayun so rightly notes in an analysis of these statistics in the New England Journal of Medicine, “disparity figures without explanatory context can perpetuate harmful myths and misunderstandings that actually undermine the goal of eliminating health inequities.” False narratives around Black people being able to tolerate higher levels of pain, for example, date back to slavery. That explanatory context is something that white people love to sweep under the rug — the pervasiveness of whiteness and violence in our country.

COVID-19 is only uplifting what has been so ingrained in our nation’s history for decades — the constant state of violence against Black people — in our economy, our justice system, our health system, our education system.

As an organization, we wholeheartedly stand against anti-Black racism, and are committed to ensuring that we can take the steps to becoming an anti-racist organization. We are committed to supporting our grantee partners who are on the front lines of racial equity work in public education, by supporting organizations led by and serving people of color through general operating support grants, and supporting community organizing groups that are working to ensure that young people of color have a seat at the table in educational decision-making, to name a few. As an organization, we will continue to do our own learning around white supremacy, our complicity in upholding this system as a philanthropic entity, and we will take action to dismantle it. As a white leader, I am committed to holding myself — and other white people — to do better.

White people must step up and take action, and hold each other accountable. It is our responsibility to examine how we are complicit in the spreading of this virus of racism, and how we benefit from it every day. Silence is complicity. This moment calls on us to reflect on the type of society we want to build and take action. Our future depends on it.

Nick Donohue is President & CEO at the Nellie Mae Education Foundation

Silence is Complicity 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.

Lighting Candles: Finding and Studying Schools that are Achieving Equity

Guest Author: Eric Toshalis, Senior Director, Impact & Improvement, KnowledgeWorks

There’s a maxim I like a lot these days: “I’d rather light a candle than curse the darkness.” I like it because it underscores the need for illumination and resourcefulness when bad news can sometimes obscure the good. It suggests that when we’re faced with a challenge, we can start to move past it when we use existing resources to investigate our current situation. The lit candle reminds me that sure, problems exist — but solutions do too. Rather than sitting in the gloom and yelling about how bad things are, we’re better served when we gather information then find a way out.

And that’s what the REMIQS project — and the website we’re launching — are designed to do! We’re using better data to find our better schools, to learn what those schools do to produce better outcomes among our traditionally least served students. We will use what we learn to engage in practice and policy conversations about what we need to do to spread the best approaches. We are doing this with a clear understanding of the systemic challenges we need to overcome in public secondary education, not the least of which is the persistent inequities the system is designed to produce. But while we continue to tackle those larger issues, we also focus on what’s working now and how we might scale it up. We think this is way better than going down in a “blame of glory.”

That’s why we’ve built this website. We’re taking what we discover in the REMIQS project to illuminate where equity is being achieved. Not where it might be, not where it should be, but where it actually is being achieved. Then, through this website and other means, we’re communicating what we find so that parents, educators, policymakers, school system leaders, employers, university officials, researchers, and students themselves can learn from it.

At this very moment, our team is working with states to access data that will allow us to find schools that promote disproportionately positive outcomes among our least served populations. Those populations include:

  • Black and Brown students
  • students from low income families
  • students who qualify for special education services
  • English Learners

We’re interested in “disproportionately positive outcomes” because we believe that to reduce opportunity gaps, we must see greater rates of positive change in traditionally underserved populations than the rates evident in more privileged groups. We’re looking for schools that are eliminating that gap — not by bringing the top performing students down — but by lifting marginalized students up at an accelerated rate. This is equity. This is what we think good schools do.

In designing this project and communicating its developments on this website, we want to be clear that we’re not moving the goalposts in how we evaluate schools. Test scores still matter, as do graduation rates and attendance. Those items just aren’t enough anymore, especially when there are such rich data currently being ignored. Furthermore, we are not seeking to crowd an already stuffed field with a new school quality measure. And we’re definitely not using data to tell states and districts where their worst schools are so officials can “hold accountable” what are (sometimes erroneously) understood to be underperforming sites. Nope, we’re not doing these things. Why curse the darkness, right?

The REMIQS project is unique because it’s using a more robust set of outcomes to find a representative national sample of schools that are already achieving equity. Essentially, we’re finding the bright spots and illuminating what they do so we can do those awesome things elsewhere. The more candles, the better!

This post originally appeared on the REMIQS site.

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

Learning Resources During COVID-19

The Students at the Center Hub has many resources focused on Anywhere, Anytime Learning:

· 18 Digital Tools and Strategies That Support Students’ Reading and Writing: In this article, the Instructional Technology Specialist from Littleton, Colorado offers a wealth of education technology resources related to literacy development. Educators and students will be particularly interested in the links to specific digital resources. These are presented in sections that correspond to specific literacy skills such as pre-writing, reading, and evaluation.

· 4 Questions to Ask About Multimedia Content: This short article provides advice on selecting the best multimedia resources.

· Digital Learning Day Resources: To help support digital learning throughout the year, this website offers several useful resources which include: A list of free digital tools to support classroom activities, interactive lesson plans submitted by teachers, and links to a large number of resource databases to find more tools and lessons

· How to Move From Digital Substitution to Deeper Learning: This podcast features a discussion of how teachers can ensure they are using technology to support deeper learning and move to more student-centered teaching practices. The guest focuses on practical suggestions and examples for teachers to put to work in the classroom.

· Center on Technology and Disability (CTD): The CTD is designed to increase the capacity of families and providers to advocate for, acquire, and implement effective assistive and instructional technology (AT/IT) practices, devices, and services. This website features free professional development and resources such as articles, recorded webinars, online modules, and more.

· From Hotspots to School Bus Wi-Fi, Districts Seek Out Solutions to ‘Homework Gap’: This article discusses possible ways to address disparities in access to high-speed internet connections in the home. It offers school, district, and community leaders facing such problems ideas from other districts, such as advertising community location with high-speed access or providing wi-fi on buses.

· Equity by Design in Learning Technologies: This report looks at equity in regards to access to and application of new technologies that support learning. It outlines the challenges and explores how learning technologies can provide the greatest benefits for the most vulnerable learners. This podcast provides more information on the report.

· How Giving Students Feedback Through Video Instead of Text Can Foster Better Understanding: This article describes how several teachers have shifted from providing written to video feedback for students. Ongoing feedback is an important part of formative assessment. This piece looks at the advantages of using video to deliver this feedback and provides links to websites and tools for teachers who would like to get started.

· How Podcasts Can Improve Literacy: This article, written by a veteran educator, describes how podcasts can be used as a strategy to boost literacy in any subject, especially for English Language Learners.

· Learning Accelerator’s Practices at Work: Blended & Personalized Learning : The Blended and Personalized Learning Practices at Work site, managed by The Learning Accelerator, is a collection of free, practical strategies and resources to help schools implement blended and personalized learning. The website is divided into sections that explore the basics of blended learning, provide real-world examples, and detail strategies to support implementation.

· KQED Teach Online Courses : KQED Teach offers free online courses on a variety of digital products and tools that can be used to enhance learning. The courses begin with Foundations in Media, which introduces the key digital media literacy concepts. Subsequent courses focus on one digital tool or product with overview modules/lessons, which should take between two and three hours to complete, as well as modules to share lessons learned after using the tool in the classroom.

Communications for Good and COVID-19

To communicate is to be human — to share conversation over a pot of coffee with a coworker, embrace a loved one in a hug, share a meal with a group of friends. As I keep the news on in the background while I’m quarantined like so many in my home, the commercial breaks seem like a surreal trip into another lifetime — where people are dancing together at parties, picking kids up at school, listening to a presentation in an office. Now, more than ever, we are seeing how effective communications practices can keep us connected, even when we are physically apart.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lessons I have learned about effective communications through a racial equity lens at the Nellie Mae Education Foundation remain even more relevant today. How we respond to this pandemic as funders is critical — not only in how we choose to use our resources, but in the ways we choose to communicate.

This is About All of Us, Not Just Some of Us
Americans tend to default to an individualism cultural model — meaning that we think that what happens to us is the result of our individual actions, not larger systems and historical systems of oppression. We see this playing out through the hoarding of food, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and baby formula, or politicians putting big business in front of the needs of those suffering the most in this crisis. When President Trump incites vitriol like using language such as the “China Virus” he is buying into racism, xenophobia, and Sinophobia that divide us. He is also reinforcing this idea of individuals from a community of color being the root of this virus, instead of tapping into the idea that our own health and wellbeing depends upon the health of others.

The Message Matters, But So Does The Messenger
There are a multitude of reasons why a group of community organizers might hear a message differently if it were to come from a young person of color versus me, a white woman working at a philanthropic organization. These reasons may include lived experiences, proximity to challenges at hand, relationships and credibility in communities, and many more. The same principle remains for communicating in the wake of this pandemic. Now is not the time for funders to insert their agendas into every news story, or distribute press releases as normal. It’s time to lend our support to the messengers and our grantees — credible sources on what we can do as a society to diminish the effects of this virus. At Nellie Mae, we have been organizing resource and support opportunities for communities throughout the region, and also working internally to shift our practices to provide more support to response efforts. For those interested in sharing the facts, the CDC, NIH and local departments of health are good places to start.

Listening More, Saying Less
Effective communication is not a one-way street. We all know that this crisis will have profound impacts on the sustainability and viability of many schools, districts and nonprofit organizations in our region. As funders, we have to figure out how we can support our grantee partners during this time by listening more, asking them how we can be of support, and following their guidance. Additionally, we need to take it upon ourselves to be proactive, bold and decisive in our communications around flexibility surrounding grant requirements, lightening the burdens that so many of our grantee partners are feeling at this time. We’ve already seen powerful examples of this from funders like the Barr Foundation and the Heinz Endowments.

Funders, this is our chance to use the many resources we have at hand — our money, our networks, and our communications — to support the communities we seek to support. After all, we’re all in this together.

A Letter to Our Grantees and Vendors on COVID-19

Dear Friends:

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are committed to extending care to our grantee partners, the communities we serve, and ourselves. We wanted to send a short note to you in this time of uncertainty:

· We understand that the spread of COVID-19 is likely causing disruption in your work environment, and may also affect your ability to hold in person meetings, gatherings or attend convenings you have planned as a part of your funding from us. We want to extend flexibility during this uncertain time. If grant activity or reports will be significantly delayed during this time, we welcome a conversation with you about making alternative arrangements. Please contact your program officer to discuss how to proceed. If you are unsure of who to contact, please email Jessica Spohn, Director of Grantmaking,

· Effective today, through March 31st at least, Nellie Mae staff will be working remotely. During this time, we will be holding all our meetings virtually.

· We have plans in place to ensure grant payments are made with minimal disruption.

· Today, we released one of our first steps in supporting Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We invite you to learn more about that here, and remain committed to figuring out how to best serve our grantee partners and communities during this time.

· We will also continue to strategize internally and in partnership with grantees, community partners, and other funders as we gain a clearer assessment of the situation across the region. We hope to remain part of the solution alongside many as we all work together to address the immediate and long-lasting impact of COVID-19 in communities and schools.

If you have any immediate concerns about your grant with us, please don’t hesitate to contact your program officer. We are keeping you in our hearts in this uncertain time and will keep you updated on any changes on our end. Thank you for the work you do every day.

Nick Donohue
President & CEO
Nellie Mae Education Foundation

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation Welcomes Betty Francisco to Board of Directors, and Jessica…

We are pleased to welcome Betty Francisco to our Board of Directors

Today we are pleased to announce the appointments of Betty Francisco to our Board of Directors, and Jessica Jones and Juliette Menga as advisory members of the Board’s Investment Committee. Together, these three powerful community and business leaders will bring tremendous expertise and guidance to the Nellie Mae Education Foundation as we launch our new organizational strategy to advance racial equity in public education.

“We are delighted to welcome these three talented leaders as part of this exciting new chapter for our organization,” said Nick Donohue, President & CEO of Nellie Mae. “Their perspectives and insights will be incredibly valuable as we reshape our grantmaking through a race equity lens to ensure that all students across New England have access to an excellent public education.”

Betty Francisco is an entrepreneur, community leader, business executive and attorney. She is known as a powerful convener and collaborator, passionate about creating visibility for the growing Latinx business and civic community in Massachusetts. In 2018, Boston Magazine named her one of the 100 most Influential People in Boston. She was also honored by GetKonnected as part of the GK100: Greater Boston’s Most Influential People of Color list.

Betty is the co-founder of Latina Circle, a Boston-based network that is advancing Latina leaders into positions of power and influence across industries. She was also instrumental in launching Latina Circle’s Amplify Latinx initiative to increase Latinx civic engagement and political representation. Currently, Betty is the General Counsel at Compass Working Capital, where she serves as chief legal advisor. She has over 17 years of experience advising health clubs, life sciences, and technology companies in the areas of legal, compliance, risk management, operations, and human resources. Previously, Betty served as the CEO and Founder of FitNation Ventures, a business and legal consulting practice focused on advising health and fitness companies.

Betty obtained her JD and MBA from Northeastern University, and her BA in History from Bard College. She is fluent in Spanish and resides in Boston with her husband and two daughters. “It is so exciting to join the Foundation at a pivotal time as it implements its racial equity strategy,” she says. “I am looking forward to advancing the mission and elevating the voices of youth, families and grassroots leaders who are best positioned to shape innovative solutions for improving public education.”

We are pleased to welcome Jessica Jones as an Investment Advisor to our Board

Jessica Jones is Managing Director for Hedge Funds at Dartmouth College’s Investment Office. Before joining DCIO in 2018, she worked for almost a decade at HighVista Strategies, where she was a principal focusing on the firm’s external manager portfolio across public and private strategies. Previously, she held positions at Grove Street and Battery Ventures.

Jessica graduated summa cum laude with an AB degree from Princeton University in 2001. She is chair of the Princeton admissions office alumni schools committee for the western suburbs of Boston. Jessica co-founded and currently runs NextGen LPs, an industry networking association. She is also on the investment committee for the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. “I am thrilled to be joining an organization that I know is truly committed to advancing racial equity in public education,” she says.

We are pleased to welcome Juliette Menga as an Investment Advisor to our Board

Juliette Menga, CFA is a Director and Associate Portfolio Manager at Alternative Investment Group, an independent investment firm based in Southport, CT. She has responsibility for manager sourcing and monitoring for all funds at the firm, and works closely with its head of investment strategy to define its strategic investment direction. Juliette is a member of the firm’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and Sustainable Investing Committee, and has been with the firm since April 2007. Prior to joining Alternative Investment Group, Juliette was an Analyst at New York Live Investment Management. She has also worked as a Research Analyst for Excalibur Advisors LLC, a hedge fund advisory firm.

Juliette holds a dual BS, cum laude, from Kennesaw State University in Mathematics and Computer Science, and a MS in Financial Mathematics from Florida State University. She is also a Chartered Financial Analyst. “I look forward to partnering with the Nellie Mae team to think strategically about how we can best align the organization’s investments with its focus on equity,” says Juliette.

“As part of our new strategy, we are working to ensure all aspects of our organizational culture and practice promote equity — not only in our grantmaking, but also in how we invest our endowment in ways aligned with our values,” said Greg Gunn, Board Chair of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. “Betty, Jessica and Juliette will be instrumental in helping us achieve that goal.”