Foundation Voices

EDVentures – March 2024 Foundation Update

EDVentures – March 2024 Foundation Update

Strengthening our Southern Impact with Program Officer for Community Schools 

The NEA Foundation’s Community Schools Initiative is in a period of expansion, and its new program officer, Jazz Cleark-Gibson, is helping to lead the way. A former educator with a background in community organizing and coalition building, Jazz brings a wealth of dedication and knowledge to the Foundation’s Southern office. Notably, Jazz most recently served as an Organizational Specialist with the Mississippi Association of Educators (MAE), under MAE President Erica Jones. She also spent more than three years as a classroom educator.  

As a Mississippi native, Jazz holds a deep understanding of the unique challenges and strengths of the Southern region, including historical injustices and cultural richness. 

“Students and families in the Deep South navigate many issues typical of underserved communities, including personal financial difficulties, limited community resources, and lack of opportunities,” Jazz said. “Nonetheless, the community schools strategy is a means by which—despite racial, political, and historical differences among community members, government officials, and school personnel—a concerted collective effort is undertaken with one shared goal: to ensure equitable opportunities for all students to achieve and thrive.” 

The NEA Foundation’s Community Schools Initiative aims to address the needs of students through powerful unprecedented family, school, and community partnerships. Through this initiative, the Foundation has contributed to the growth of community schools in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi since its inception in 2020, bringing the number of identified community schools in the tri-state area from one to 19. The Community Schools Initiative recently drew national attention in a 2023 report by the Bridgespan Group on funding economic mobility in the Black rural South.  

Educator Feature: Bringing Science to Life for Elementary Students after Joining International Ecology Project 

A first grade educator from Minnesota and recipient of an NEA Foundation Learning and Leadership Grant wanted to deepen her understanding of applied science through new experiences and research projects. The educator, Jennifer Eckman, used support from the grant to participate in numerous ecology and conservation projects in Costa Rica through Ecology Project International, a nonprofit organization that offers science-based programs for educators.  

“I was able to be both a learner and a leader throughout the seminar, often simultaneously,” said Eckman. “I don’t think I could have predicted all the ways the experience impacted me nor can I fully explain it. I left the program with an amazing sense of strength and determination, a renewed commitment to the goals I have for myself as an educator and for the ideals and hopes I have for my students and the programs I am creating.” 

After returning from her trip, Eckman brought her experiences and expertise to the classroom. Her students created science journals, drew connections between leaf-cutter ants in Costa Rica and the ants in their schoolyard, and learned how cooperation and teamwork skills are critical when conducting their research projects. 

Eckman’s students became so engaged in science that they were asked to present at a school board meeting. Eckman also spoke at an information session for other educators who are interested in applying for grants from The NEA Foundation. 

The NEA Foundation is currently accepting grant applications for Summer 2024. Head to our website to learn more or register for virtual office hours on April 16 for a live Q&A with our program officer. 

Be Part of the Biggest Night in Public Education 

The 2024 Salute to Excellence in Education Gala is just around the corner! We can’t wait to gather with educators and friends of public education from far and near on May 3rd, including one of the finalists for the top educator award, Harlee Harvey, who will travel from her community in the most northwestern point in the country, Point Hope, Alaska, to be at the awards gala. Here she is with a special message to share: 

The event will be hosted by Lisa Ann Walter, actress and comedian, best known for her roles in The Parent Trap and Abbott Elementary. 

The NEA Foundation extends a special thank you to the following sponsors for helping to support the 2024 Salute to Excellence in Education Gala: 

Interested in Global Learning? Join the Second Annual EdCamp on April 20

The NEA Foundation is gearing up for the second annual Global Learning EdCamp, a free online professional learning and collaboration opportunity for anyone interested in global learning. The event is designed in partnership with The NEA Foundation’s Global Learning Fellows, the Global Learning Fellowship Advisory Council, prospective Fellows, and friends of The NEA Foundation. 

The EdCamp is held in the style of an “unconference,” driven by the participants themselves. Attendees are encouraged to bring session ideas and a collaborative spirit, and will have the opportunity to suggest topics related to global learning and choose which sessions to attend. The event will include opening remarks from NEA Foundation President and CEO Sara A. Sneed and a keynote from 2023 Global Learning Fellow Chris Dier. 

The inaugural Global Learning EdCamp in 2023 attracted a diverse group of 135 participants from around the world. We’re excited to come together again for another spectacular EdCamp experience on Saturday, April 20th!  

The Global Learning Fellowship’s 2024 cohort is continuing to learn new strategies for bringing global competencies to their classrooms. In March, the fellows attended a webinar on how global learning can be infused into PK-12 classrooms and schools through education technology and AI. 

Global Learning Fellow Amy Perkins of Michigan said of the webinar: “These resources are AWESOME! Especially for those of us who are ‘islands’ in our districts, steadfastly pushing for a shift to global ed.” 

Up Close Podcast with Albert Sykes Examines the Legacy of Civil Rights Activism

In the most recent episode of the Up Close Podcast with Sara Sneed, lifelong civil rights advocate Albert Sykes shared his personal story of becoming dedicated to activism and how his story fits into the legacy of generations of activists that have come before him. He also discussed why he advocates for education justice and why working with community schools is a “beautiful struggle.” 

Sponsor Spotlight: FNBO’s Commitment to Public Education 

The NEA Foundation salutes FNBO for its steadfast support of K-12 public school educators, students, and communities nationwide. Proud to call itself a great big, small bank, FNBO has been dedicated for more than 160 years to advancing clients’ financial well-being and to strengthening community. One measure of that enduring commitment is its generous investment in the Foundation’s Grants to Educators (GTE) Program.  

FNBO’s contributions to GTE help the Foundation to provide hundreds of educators around the country with critically needed resources through its Learning & Leadership, Student Success, and Envision Equity grants. The Foundation expresses heartfelt gratitude to FNBO for its collaborative efforts in advancing public education’s best practices and contributing to community wellbeing.  

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