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A Meeting of the Minds

What will it take to achieve educational equity for students in California? According to Christopher Nellum, Executive Director of the Education Trust-West, it will take a shift from talking about equity to taking the necessary steps to affect systems change. It’ll require a collective approach where actors from throughout the state band together to hold institutional leaders and legislative leaders accountable for their lack of action and/or lip service. It requires “Moving Forward Together”— that was the title given to the Education Trust-West’s 2022 Education Equity Forum

On September 19th and 20th, educational justice advocates gathered and learned how to leverage evidence-based strategies to significantly improve racial and educational equity and justice in early learning centers, schools, and colleges throughout California. 

What Will It Take?

For keynote speaker Dr. Anna Malaika Tubbs, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Three Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation, achieving educational equity requires a focus on the role that women play in movement building. According to Dr. Tubbs, the role that women play has been ignored for far too long, overshadowed by men, or simply forgotten. 

For plenary session speakers Denise Forte, Interim CEO at the Education Trust, Carol Hedgspeth, Deputy Directorof the Education Trust-West, and Pivot Learning CEO Arun Ramanathan, it requires intentionality. This intentionality underscores the fact that education equity and race equity go hand-in-hand, it is an intentionality that attempts to reverse historical inequities by unapologetically working toward educational justice for low-income students of color. 

For panelist Vinice Davis, Venture Partner at Imaginable Futures, achieving education equity requires sourcing solutions from those most impacted by inequity while also centering the voices of students in everything that we do. 

For attendees, Emmanuel “Manny” Rodriguez, Director of Policy and Advocacy at TICAS, and Parshan Khosravi, California Policy Director at UAspire, it requires building broad based coalitions that will push for change at the institutional, systems and state level.   

We’re All In

The Michelson 20MM Foundation was honored to join the Education Trust-West and to be in community with education leaders and advocates at this year’s forum. We were grateful to be invited to join two panels, “How Education Equity Funders Think About Sustaining Support for Racial Equity-Focused Work” and “Cross-Sector Collaboration to Advance Equity in Student Parent Success.” During the discussions, Miguel Leon, Director of Programs and Strategic Initiatives, emphasized the need for philanthropy to collaborate with nonprofit partners in a more authentic and immersive way on the road toward education equity. 

“If we want to be less performative and more action oriented, we need to listen to the community and to students and let them guide our work,” Miguel said.

Miguel went on to share a unique way that Michelson 20MM is doing this via its Spark Grant program. As part of its grantmaking initiative Michelson 20MM convenes “Spark Community Advisors,” a group of partners, education leaders, and advocates, who develop grantmaking priorities for the foundation and make recommendations on what proposals to fund. As Miguel stated, “Instead of saying, we are the experts, we know how to best help students, we hand the reins over to non- profit leaders and students themselves.” This is one way that Michelson 20MM is listening and letting those closest to the issue areas of focus guide its work. Beyond that, it’s one way that Michelson 20MM is demonstrating our commitment to being all in on working toward education equity for California’s college students.  

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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