Last week saw the Boston premiere of the new documentary film Backpack Full of Cash. The event was sponsored by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Citizens for Public Schools, and the Schott Foundation. The film's narrator, Matt Damon, joined a discussion panel afterward to elaborate on the issues raised in the documentary.
How can we ensure healthy school climates for LGBTQ youth, particularly youth of color in schools, in the present political environment? This was the animating question behind a wide-ranging funders briefing and strategy session held by the Schott Foundation for Public Education in partnership with Funders for LGBTQ Issues and Communities for Just Schools Fund in New York City on July 25th.
Like many professionals working in philanthropy, I was oriented to do work in the social sector and stumbled into a job at a foundation. When I started as a program officer at the age of 28, I wasn’t sure if I would make a career out of out of philanthropy. At that time there was a debate about whether or not philanthropy was even a viable career path. Some believed it was a golden parachute for the successful retiree departing from their CEO jobs in corporate America, or from being the chancellor of some prestigious university. It was a strange place to be in 2005 – thankfully, things have changed and there are many more opportunities to explore careers in philanthropy today.
What happened in Charlottesville is a national disgrace, but also a symptom of a chronic disease our country has suffered far too long. We are compelled by our mission and values to pause and publicly condemn what happened, remind our persuadable but inactive friends of the existence and burgeoning numbers of domestic extremist groups, do our part to ease the pain those groups cause today, and halt their potential for damage in the future.
Due to historical trauma, chronically underfunded programs, and broken promises on the part of the U.S. government, children and youth from Native American communities experience many educational, health, and economic disparities compared with their peers. To raise awareness and challenge the philanthropic community to better resource movements to support healthy living and learning for Native children and youth, the Schott Foundation and Nike’s N7 Fund, in partnership with Native Americans in Philanthropy, convened a group of Native education, health care, and human services experts along with several foundations in Washington, DC, in late June.
In June the Schott Foundation hosted a special extended-length webinar diving deep into implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act. While discussing the minutiae of education policy is rarely an exciting activity, the panelists on our webinar showed how important it is that advocates and community members know how ESSA works: the future of our children’s education depends on it.
A year later, philanthropic and community leaders gathered in Orlando to reflect on the Pulse nightclub tragedy that took 49 lives. Our Rafael Torres participated in the Orlando Strong Funders Symposium and came away with valuable lessons about the power of community standing together in the face of hate. But this convening was more than a professional experience for Rafael. It was deeply personal.
Our grantee partner, Youth BREAKOUT! and the Congress of Day Laborers began working together more than six years ago after realizing that their struggles for LGBTQ liberation, the human right to move freely, and the fight against criminalization are inherently and inextricably linked. Together, they have recently released VICE to ICE, a compendium of resources for organizing with people whose lives are at the intersection of LGBTQ identity and undocumented status.
A few weeks ago, I was honored to speak on a panel and workshop at the 70th Annual Education Writers Association National Seminar in Washington, DC, on social media and storytelling.
With me were Virginia Tech biologist Anne Hilborn, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation's Patrick Riccards (better known as EduFlack), and NPR Ed Team reporter Cory Turner. We were moderated by Virginia Tech’s Cathy Grimes and the Learning Policy Institute’s Barbara McKenna.
Public education policy has a reputation for being both contentious and wonky, which is why finding new ways to connect researchers, journalists, policymakers, advocates, and community members is key to moving from debate to action. We were lucky enough to secure a two-session block, so we were able to answer many questions from the more than fifty audience members in attendance and really dive deep into storytelling, social media strategy, and case studies of these ideas operating in the education space.
A lot was covered, so I’ll focus on a few key takeaways discussed:
Since their founding, local public schools and their educators have produced America’s most brilliant artists, scientists, doctors, musicians, lawyers, presidents, and more — people from all walks of life, contributing to society in a myriad of ways. The neighborhood public school is often the center of a civic and cultural life, recognized as the key to each community's future. The fate of public schools affect the fate of everyone: it's why they were one of the first institutions built by freed slaves during Reconstruction, and why they were so central to desegregating our towns and cities a century later.
And while the struggle continues to make our public schools more equitable and just for every child, we must also celebrate and protect those aspects that are now under threat by privatization, disinvestment, and resegregation. That's why the Schott Foundation is proud to lift up some of the countless success stories that our public schools produce every year from coast to coast.
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