Seven Organizations Nominated for $50,000 Grant

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Contact: Jackson Murphy
Solomon McCown & Co.

Seven Organizations Nominated for $50,000 Grant
Nellie Mae Education Foundation’s first-ever Youth Organizing Award to be determined by public vote

Quincy, MA – November 1, 2016 – The Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the largest philanthropic organization in New England focused exclusively on education, is pleased to announce the finalists for its first-ever Nellie Mae Education Foundation Youth Organizing Award. This $50,000 award honors a New England youth organizing group that has shown tremendous commitment to advancing student-centered learning or redesigning education to meet the needs of all students - specifically focused on public secondary education.
In a student-centered environment, learning is personalized, competency-based, happens anytime, anywhere and allows students to take ownership of their education. Student-centered learning prepares students to master the academic knowledge, critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills they need to thrive.

“Our seven Youth Organizing Award finalists are leaders in promoting student ownership and voice as part of school decision-making in New England,” said Nick Donohue, president and CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. “These students have committed themselves to improving educational experiences for their peers while building the knowledge and skills which will serve them long after graduation. I’m proud to offer a well-deserved congratulations on the great work they’ve achieved as well as the impact they are making for future students.”

From November 1 at 12:00 PM EST – November 30 at 12:00 PM EST, the public is invited to vote for finalists through email on the Students at the Center Hub and via text message. The organization with the most votes will receive a $50,000 grant to continue the organization's work around advancing student-centered learning or redesigning education to meet the needs of all students. The finalists include:

Connecticut: Hearing Youth Voices (New London, CT) – At this New London, Connecticut-based group, youth leaders identify issues, research solutions, and run campaigns aimed at making concrete, meaningful changes in their public schools. The core membership and leadership are working class youth of color, many of whom are also LGBTQI, and/or immigrant, and/or have been pushed out of school. Recently, HYV youth ran the “We Want to Graduate Campaign,” which focused on systemic obstacles to students graduating, specifically absence-based credit loss and suspensions. After two years of hard work on the part of hundreds of youth, the New London Public Schools (NLPS) revised its attendance policy to offer supportive interventions instead of punishments for absent students, a change that affected the more than 3,000 students and families in NLPS. Additionally, HYV youth worked alongside a broader coalition of parent advocates, school staff, and Board of Education members to create the district's first-ever Restorative Practices pilot project. Most recently, HYV successfully advocated for students to become voting members of the Board of Education's Policy Committee, integrating student voice into the highest level of policy decision-making in the district.

Maine: Portland Empowered (Portland, ME) – Portland Empowered youth are elevating student voice across Portland public schools. Over the past year, Portland Empowered's youth group, Youth Engagement Partners (YEPs), has worked to improve relationships between teachers and students in their schools. This is done by engaging teachers and other school staff in youth-designed and youth-led workshops about education and what it is like to be a student today. YEPs are working hard to ensure schools recognize that students have expertise to share with teachers, just as teachers have expertise to share with students. YEPs are committed to addressing challenges that arise within education creatively and collaboratively.
Massachusetts: Sociedad Latina (Boston, MA) – Sociedad Latina works in partnership with youth and families to create the next generation of Latino leaders who are confident, competent, self-sustaining and proud of their cultural heritage. Across Boston, Sociedad Latina focuses on supporting the unmet needs of youth and families through civic engagement, academic support, workforce development, and arts & culture programs. Over the years, the organization's youth community organizers have achieved a number of notable campaign victories, including the creation of a Youth Advisory to the Boston Public School Office of Opportunity and Achievement Gap - to improve outcomes for young men of color. They have also been instrumental in pushing the Boston Public School system to embrace the importance of cultural proficiency within the district. Currently, the group is working on a college and career readiness campaign with a focus on culturally and linguistically sustaining practices, programs and policies.
New Hampshire: Granite State Organizing Project (Manchester, NH) – Granite State Organizing Project (GSOP)'s Young Organizers United (Y.O.U.) members are committed to using their voices to advance educational equity and student-centered learning in Manchester, New Hampshire. Y.O.U. has led a number of campaigns focused on educational equity including: a campaign to ensure extended learning opportunities and advanced placement classes are available to all students, and the Restoring Dignity Campaign, which disseminated Y.O.U.’s Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook to over 2,000 Manchester High School students. Most recently, Y.O.U. has been working to get student representation on the Manchester School District's Board of School Committee and draw attention to the lack of representation of people of color amongst school administration and faculty.
Rhode Island: Young Voices (Providence, RI) – At Young Voices, students are empowered to become confident civic leaders and advocates in their communities. The organization has created a model that ensures that students have authentic input in the redesign of their schools, and has pushed for student-centered practices in school districts across the state. Most recently, the group presented data on the impact of school discipline policies to the Providence Superintendent, who embraced their solution of bringing more restorative justice practices to the district.
Rhode Island: Providence Student Union (Providence, RI) – From staging zombie marches to pressing city officials to try high-stakes testing for themselves, the Providence Student Union (PSU) is never short on creative organizing tactics! PSU’s young people have worked tirelessly to ensure that all Providence students can have an equitable and powerful education. Most recently, students won ethnic studies courses in local high schools, ensuring that students’ diverse cultures have a place in the city's history curriculum.
Vermont: UP for Learning (East Hardwick, VT) – UP For Learning (Unleashing the Power of Partnership for Learning) is helping Vermont schools embrace student voice as a deep-seated part of their school culture. Since 2008, the organization's YATST initiative (Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together) has paired high school students with adult partners to increase engagement in learning. They identify challenges and issues in their schools, conduct participatory action research on those issues, and implement change at the school level. Examples include establishing teacher advisory time and designing student-teacher mid-semester feedback systems. UP for Learning also facilitates the Communicating School Redesign initiative, which mobilizes school youth-adult teams around the state to design and implement their own communications campaigns, in support of a statewide movement toward personalized and proficiency-based learning.

For more information on the nominating process, selection of finalists and the Nellie Mae Youth Organizing Award, please visit the Students at the Center website to learn more.
About the Nellie Mae Education Foundation:
The Nellie Mae Education Foundation is the largest philanthropic organization in New England that focuses exclusively on education. The Foundation supports the promotion and integration of student-centered approaches to learning at the high school level across New England—where learning is personalized; learning is competency-based; learning takes place anytime, anywhere; and students exert ownership over their own learning. To elevate student-centered approaches, the Foundation utilizes a four-part strategy that focuses on: building educator ownership, understanding and capacity; advancing quality and rigor of SCL practices; developing effective systems designs; and building public understanding and demand. Since 1998, the Foundation has distributed over $210 million in grants. For more information about the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, visit