Announcing our Supporting Organizations Led By People of Color and Amplifying Youth Voice grant…

Announcing our Supporting Organizations Led By People of Color and Amplifying Youth Voice grant recipients

As movements to combat systemic racism and anti-Blackness progress throughout the country, we have a moral and civic responsibility to foster a public education system that enables all of our young people to succeed and our communities to thrive. We are proud to support work that advances racial equity in service of an excellent and equitable public education during such an important moment for our society and to introduce our grantee partners who are leading these efforts.

Earlier this year, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation launched a new organizational strategy to advance racial equity in public education as the central focus of our grantmaking. Today, we are excited to take another important step in this work through two new grant funds that support youth- and community-based organizations, centered in communities of color who have been historically and systematically left out of education decision-making.

To ensure that these organizations have the supports they need to continue their important work and strengthen their development, we are providing flexible, multi-year grants. We hope this contributes to the attainment of a shared vision of high-quality, equitable public education.

Our Supporting Organizations Led By People of Color grant fund will provide $100,000 annually for three years to organizations led by leaders of color who are working to transform barriers to racial equity in public education. Additionally, this fund will support these organizations in a co-designed leadership development program designed to meet their capacity building needs. These organizations are embedded in their communities and actively engage parents, youth, and educators to address issues such as dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline; promoting more culturally responsive teaching and learning; supporting immigrant students and English Language Learners; supporting students with special needs; and advocating for educator diversity.

Additionally, our Amplifying Youth Voice grant fund seeks to amplify the authentic voices of young people throughout New England, supporting their participation in decision-making that affects their futures. This grant fund will support youth organizing groups with three-year general operating support grants of $52,750 annually, as well as technical assistance focused on building their capacity, power, and voice. These brilliant and committed young people are experienced in leading campaigns such as implementing restorative justice practices in schools; promoting access to financial aid for youth who are undocumented; seeking funding for socio-emotional learning and access to mental health professionals and social workers in schools; dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline; developing ethnic studies curriculum; and advocating for inclusive policies for undocumented and LGBTQIA+ youth.

This is an early part of our strategic efforts to achieve our mission and vision as an organization and contribute to the regions’ future.

We look forward to learning from and working with these incredible organizations in the years ahead, in a collective effort to ensure our nation lives up to its promise of opportunity, equality, and justice for all.

You can learn more about both sets of grantees below.

Supporting Organizations Led By People of Color Grantees:

Make the Road CT (Bridgeport and Hartford, CT): Make the Road CT is a parent and youth organizing group focused on improving educational access and equity for public school students, empowering parents to advocate for their children within the school system, and providing training and planning resources to immigrant families with undocumented or mixed immigration status.

Step Up New London (New London, CT): Step Up is a parent organizing group focused on advocating for racial equity reforms in New London Public Schools. Step Up trains parents on community organizing and advocacy, supports parent-led efforts to advocate within the school system, and implements campaigns to push for reforms.

COMPASS Youth Collaborative (Hartford, CT): COMPASS works with schools, parents, educators, and community members to support disconnected youth, engaging them in relationships to provide supports and opportunities that help them become ready, willing, and able to succeed in education, employment, and life.

Educators for Excellence (E4E) (New Haven, Hartford, and Bridgeport, CT): E4E is a national organization with a Connecticut chapter serving teachers in New Haven, Hartford, and Bridgeport. E4E strives to ensure that teachers are included in education policy decisions. The organization identifies issues that impact schools, creates solutions to these challenges, and advocates for policies and programs that give all students access to a quality education.

The Chelsea Collaborative (Chelsea, East Boston, Everett, and Revere, MA): The Chelsea Collaborative empowers Chelsea residents to enhance the social and economic health of the community and its people while holding institutional decision-makers accountable.

Southeast Asian Coalition of Central MA (SEACMA) (Worcester, MA): SEACMA supports, promotes, and advocates for the success of the Southeast Asian population of Central Massachusetts in their pursuit of naturalization while also maintaining their own unique cultural identity. SEACMA provides youth and adult programing, educational advocacy, and parent engagement opportunities while advocating for language access and culturally relevant teaching and learning.

The Young People’s Project (YPP) (Cambridge, MA): YPP uses Math Literacy Work to develop the abilities of elementary through high school students to succeed in school and in life, and in doing so involves them in efforts to eliminate institutional obstacles to their success.

Teach Western MA (TWM) (Holyoke, Springfield, and Western Massachusetts): TWM is a partnership founded by Holyoke Public Schools and the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership, representing 30 schools and serving more than 11,000 students in Western Massachusetts. TWM works on teacher recruitment, preparation and retention with a hyper focus on diversifying the workforce to reflect the demographics of the children in Holyoke and Springfield public schools and six local charter public schools.

The Teachers’ Lounge (Greater Boston, MA): The Teachers’ Lounge seeks to drive unprecedented student outcomes by greatly diversifying the people, thoughts, and actions of the educational workforce in the Greater Boston Area and beyond.

Wôpanâak Language and Cultural Weetyoo, Inc. (Mashpee, MA): Wôpanâak Language and Cultural Weetyoo, Inc. works to restore Wôpanâôt8âôk (Wôpanâak language) as the principal means of expression among the Tribes of the Wampanoag Nation, and to return language home to Tribal families. Having worked for two decades to reclaim their Native American language from an extensive archival record after generations without fluent speakers, their teachers now instruct hundreds of students each year, including K-12 Wampanaog youth in Mashpee Public Schools on Cape Cod.

Women Encouraging Empowerment (WEE) (Revere, MA): WEE’s mission is to educate, advocate, protect, and advance the rights of immigrants, refugees, and low-income women and their families through organizing, leadership development, and service delivery.

Equity Institute (Providence, RI): Equity Institute serves educators of color in Providence and other Rhode Island communities, with a focus on educator diversity, the educator pipeline, and the retention of educators of color. It develops innovative systems that cultivate culturally responsive schools and communities for all learners through organizational development, research, and networking.

Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE)(Providence, RI): ARISE mobilizes policy, programs, and partnerships to prepare, promote, and empower Rhode Island’s Southeast Asian students for educational and career success.

Parents Leading for Educational Equity (PLEE) (Providence, RI): PLEE is a parent-led, grassroots organization with a mission to fight for a parent voice in education decision-making, and for access to a high-quality public school option for all children of color.

Gedakina (Essex, VT): Gedakina is a multigenerational endeavor to strengthen and revitalize the cultural knowledge and identity of Native American youth and families from across New England, and to conserve traditional homelands and places of historical, ecological, and spiritual significance.

Amplifying Youth Voice Grantees

Citywide Youth Coalition (CWYC) (New Haven, CT): CWYC is a youth organizing group dedicated to improving access to equitable education for youth in New Haven. The organization builds youth power through education, leadership development, and anti-racist community organizing.

Blue Hills Civic Association (BHCA) (Hartford, CT): BHCA empowers the people living and working in the Blue Hills and surrounding communities to create stable and attractive neighborhoods through organizing, advocacy, and multi-generational programs.

Revere Youth in Action (RYiA) (Revere, MA): Revere Youth in Action (RYiA) builds youth power through organizing, direct education and working in coalitions for social change. It is one of the few organizations in Revere, Massachusetts that organizes for racial, immigrant and economic justice.

Student Immigrant Movement (SIM)(MA): SIM is a statewide immigrant youth-led organization whose mission is to build the power of immigrant students by identifying, recruiting, and developing leaders across Massachusetts and the United States to address the problems in their own communities.

Worcester Youth Civics Union (Latino Education Institute at Worcester State University, Worcester, MA): Worcester Youth Civics Union works to achieve student excellence by actively engaging on issues of racial and socio-economic inequality in their educational experiences.

Maine Inside Out (MIO) (Portland, ME): MIO is an organization focused on supporting incarcerated and system-impacted youth across Maine to build power, develop leadership, and create community change inside youth prisons and in communities directly impacted by mass incarceration.

The Root Social Justice Center, Youth 4 Change (Y4C) (Brattleboro, VT): Y4C provides education, outreach, and capacity building for youth organizers in Brattleboro, Vermont who are focused on promoting anti-racist community organizing.

Outright Vermont (VT): Outright Vermont’s mission is to build a Vermont where all LGBTQ+ youth have hope, equity, and power. They do this through programs that support self-discovery and peer connection, strengthening families with education and adult peer connections, and training, organizing, and networking to transform schools, communities, and systems.

Providence Student Union* (Providence, RI): Providence Student Union cultivates students to become powerful advocates for their own education and well-being, uniting youth from across Providence to take the lead in reshaping their schools and communities.

Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM)* (Providence, RI): PrYSM is a youth organization that challenges and supports Southeast Asian youth to become leaders, organizers, and critical thinkers, by offering educational workshops, leadership opportunities, mentorship, and oversight of youth-led community organizing projects.

Youth in Action* (Providence, RI): Founded in 1997 by a group of young people motivated to make change in their community, Youth in Action (YIA) is one of the pioneers of youth-led work in Providence. The organization creates opportunities for young people in Providence to become agents of change through transformative youth programming.

Portland Empowered* (Portland, ME): Located at USM’s Youth and Community Engagement team, Portland Empowered strives to ensure that historically underrepresented student and parent voices are reflected in policy and practice within Portland Public Schools.

Granite State Organizing Project’s Young Organizer United (Y.O.U.)* (Manchester and Nashua, NH): Young Organizer United (Y.O.U.) is a group of mostly immigrant and refugee students attending high school in Manchester. Y.O.U. believes that students’ voices are crucial in shaping and implementing policies that concern their education.

Hearing Youth Voices* (New London, CT): Hearing Youth Voices is a youth-led social justice organization working to create systemic change in the education system in New London, CT. The group believes that organizing is the most effective tool for youth to build power and successfully make change in their communities.

Connecticut Students for a Dream (C4D)* (CT): Founded in 2010 by undocumented young people, Connecticut Students for a Dream (C4D) empowers youth through community organizing, advocacy, and leadership development, as well as providing educational programming for undocumented youth. C4D is the only youth-led, statewide network in Connecticut that fights for the rights of undocumented youth and their families.

Elevated Thought* (Lawrence, MA): Elevated Thought exposes young people to the power of the arts as a tool for social change, helping them to harness their voices to transform their communities. As a community of predominantly Caribbean and Latinx immigrants, Lawrence youth face racial and economic injustices, and Elevated Thought allows Lawrence youth to leverage their creative skills to make positive transformations within their community.

Youth on Board* (YOB) (Boston, MA): Youth on Board (YOB) has been a leader in the field of youth organizing in the Boston area and beyond since 1994. Youth on Board is a youth-led, adult supported program where young people have the space and tools to recognize and utilize the power they hold to dismantle political and economic structures that reinforce inequity. Youth on Board co-administers the Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC) in partnership with the Boston Public Schools. BSAC acts as the student union of the district, leading organizing efforts, forging relationships with district and city-leaders, impacting policy change, and transforming school culture across the board.

Pa’Lante Restorative Justice Program* (Holyoke, MA): Pa’Lante’s mission is to build youth power, center student voice, and organize for policies and practices that dismantle the school to prison pipeline in Holyoke and beyond. Pa’Lante youth leaders use restorative practices and youth organizing to resolve conflicts, reduce school suspensions, decrease violence, strengthen relationships, increase equity, and build community in Holyoke Public Schools.

Students for Educational Justice* (SEJ) (New Haven, CT): Students for Educational Justice (SEJ) is a youth-led, intergenerational organizing body that drives efforts for racial and educational justice in Connecticut. SEJ envisions a just education system and an equitable society in which all people understand the history of race in the United States, and are actively committed to dismantling systemic racism and other forms of oppression.

*Denotes a returning Amplifying Youth Voice grantee


Announcing our Supporting Organizations Led By People of Color and Amplifying Youth Voice grant… was originally published in Nellie Mae Education Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

This Moment Shows Us Why Philanthropy Should Reinvent Itself

By: Dr. Gislaine N. Ngounou, Vice President of Strategy and Programs, Nellie Mae Education Foundation

Brooklyn Museum / CC BY

Much of the philanthropic community is earning praise for its response to COVID-19. To date, funders across the country have provided over $10 billion in grants, prompting some to even dub the pandemic as philanthropy’s “shining moment.

While it is encouraging to see many stepping up, foundations should use this experience to reflect on the strengths and shortfalls of our work, and how we can better wield our power and privilege to support communities in the future. COVID-19 is exacerbating inequities and rapidly harming people of color — especially Black people — who for centuries have been failed by our economic, education, and healthcare systems. As painful as the realities and data are, they are neither new nor shocking. We have seen this play out time and time again in the murder of Black people living in this country. Our systems are not broken; they are merely functioning as they were designed to operate — that is, privileging some while perpetually oppressing many. Racism has been the pandemic that Black people in America have endured for over 400 years.

Read the full article in Nonprofit Quarterly


This Moment Shows Us Why Philanthropy Should Reinvent Itself was originally published in Nellie Mae Education Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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, jspohn@nmefoundation.org.

· 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.”

Learning and Improving at Nellie Mae

Learning and improving comes naturally to us as humans. Healthy babies learning to walk get up after each tumble as they figure out how to steady themselves and move ahead. Our job in Nellie Mae’s Learning and Evaluation initiative is to lean into our inclinations to learn as individuals, and encourage learning to improve as a communal endeavor.

To that end, the Foundation has developed a framework for learning and evaluation. We’re seeking to become clearer and more intentional about what we want our grantmaking to accomplish and what we learn along the way about ourselves. We’re increasingly capturing the thinking behind our values and efforts, the specifics of what we are doing and what we’re figuring out. We owe this to the students in the region, and what we know from a range of reports, including the recent 50-year update of the Kerner Commission Report that finds equity of access and outcomes is not making the strides needed for all students to experience progress and success in school. It’s taking way too long.

Through our grantmaking, we are seeking to be more intentional, track and evaluate how we are doing, unpack the reasons for our progress and missteps, and apply our learning to our next efforts. We believe this will help us do better work internally, as well as with our grantees and partners who with us, work to increase college and career readiness, particularly for traditionally marginalized students and communities. Our grantees are critical partners in helping us reflect on how we are supporting them to do such important work. As we analyze our progress internally, we employ three levels of analysis:

· Monitoring: Across grant funds, we monitor progress through program officers engaging with grantees, grantee reports, and ongoing contact with intermediaries. These are regular components of grantmaking practices.

· Evaluation of Impact: Some grant funds are examined through project evaluations, synthesis of grantee reports, and evaluations of clusters of grants or overall strategy. A set of Principles of Evaluation guide our evaluation practices.

· Learning and Reflection About our Strategy: At this level, we examine the external environment and related data sources, systems change frameworks, and some broader evaluations that can inform our overall strategy or related clusters of investments.

These three levels named in the framework are essential, and data collection isn’t enough. We give meaning to our data collection through:

Practices that Build a Learning Organization: We know our efforts can only improve when we regularly track and measure progress, stop to reflect, and then do better (see Marilyn Darling’s piece on “emergent learning”). The Learning and Evaluation team, with colleagues within and beyond the foundation, is working to make learning an organizational priority — something that’s embedded in everything we do. We are developing practices and tools to support our analysis, reflection, learning, and continuous improvement of programs and broader strategy. Over time, we want to learn increasingly alongside grantees and partners.

Communications About Findings and Learning: As findings emerge, we are poising ourselves to support communicating about lessons learned, progress, and challenges both within NMEF and grantees, as well as audiences we seek to reach strategically. We are looking at how to share progress and lessons with different stakeholders and audiences, so that lessons we learn together can be applied broadly. We want to be more transparent and communicate more — this new blog series is a case in point.

Together, these practices poise us to be more thoughtful and reflective as a Foundation as one organization among many working on similar issues that advance college and career readiness. The findings of an equity assessment and a current strategy review process are helping us consider what it means for us to be rededicated to equity and more explicit about race, and we’re examining our organizational strategy through an equity lens. We’re eager to increasingly engage in applying learning to our work with you on behalf of New England youth. And we want to be ready for the next generation of young people as they learn to walk towards fruitful college and career experiences.

In this new Learning and Evaluation series, we will shed light on how different program officers see what we’re accomplishing, what we’re learning, and what insights inform future work.

Because we believe that data is power to learn and do better, NMEF is evaluating and tracking progress more than ever before.