Together for Tomorrow: Nonprofits Collaborate for Adaptive Education During a Pandemic

Story by Katie Kelton. Photos courtesy of Together for Tomorrow.

With back-to-school season looming in the minds of our metroplex, the Together for Tomorrow cohort is a beacon of hope during a global pandemic. Spearheaded by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and CoSpero Consulting, nine nonprofits are in pursuit of adaptive education for students of all ages, from pre-kindergarten to adult learners.

AES Literacy Institute Incorporated, After School All Stars North Texas, Bachman Lake Together, Education Opens Doors, Empowering the Masses, First Choice Social Services, For Oak Cliff, Readers 2 Leaders, and Stars United Global Outreach have one thing in common: a heartbeat for learning. These nonprofits serve different demographics and geographic areas, but all with a focus on parents, students, and/or teachers in the education system.

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For every pandemic-related challenge a nonprofit leader in the cohort brings to the table, the group will collaborate to solve it. Over the next three months, Together for Tomorrow will host three key stages:

  1. Each nonprofit leader presents a specific challenge related to their education-centric programs during the pandemic.

  2. Through a series of interactive virtual sessions, leaders support one another in developing actionable, sustainable solutions.

  3. Each leader goes forth to bring their plan to life.

“When it became clear that students would not be returning to school ‘as usual’ in the fall, programs serving students, parents, and teachers were scrambling to figure out how to best pivot to ensure the most minimal gap in services for their stakeholders,” Harold Hogue, CoSpero Consulting Managing Partner, explains. “We noticed there were many webinars and one-way resources coming out, but we didn’t see a place for nonprofits to come together and collaborate in one setting. We’re hoping that by coming together as thought partners, these nonprofit leaders will be able to spur innovation and share resources in order to help everyone excel.”

The team at United Way agrees. According to Lindsay Leahy, Director of Youth Success at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, “Education is one of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ key building blocks for opportunity and getting it right is complicated enough outside of a global pandemic. While sorting through the hundreds of emergency grant applications that came in for our Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund, we started looking for ways to support nonprofits past the funding. Capacity building and collaboration are cornerstones of our work so a creative problem-solving cohort made sense as a next step. We’re excited to see what these leaders have come up with already to be best positioned to serve families in a new reality this fall.” 

Without this collaborative effort, nonprofits may be working in silos during the global pandemic. These nine nonprofits bring the promise of adaptive education for Dallas and hope for learners of all ages.

Stephanie Epps, Director of Programs, Education Opens Doors

Stephanie Epps, Director of Programs, Education Opens Doors

Lisa Marshall, Vice President of Curriculum and Instruction, Readers 2 Leaders

Lisa Marshall, Vice President of Curriculum and Instruction, Readers 2 Leaders

Jermaine & ShaKimberly Cooper, President & Vice President, AES Literacy Institute Inc.

Jermaine & ShaKimberly Cooper, President & Vice President, AES Literacy Institute Inc.

Justin Hensley, Interim Executive Director, After School All Stars North Texas

Justin Hensley, Interim Executive Director, After School All Stars North Texas

Meet the nonprofits:

AES Literacy Institute Incorporated: Motivates under-educated, underprivileged adult learners to obtain the education and career training necessary to be self-sufficient. AES Literacy Institute offers high school equivalency exam prep and official HiSET testing for individuals 16+ who did not complete high school. Upon completion, they help identify career paths and assist students with enrollment in college, the military, and/or obtain gainful employment. 

After School All Stars North Texas: Provides comprehensive out-of-school programs that keep children safe and help them succeed in school and in life.

Bachman Lake Together: Unites the Bachman Lake community to fully prepare children for kindergarten – academically, socially and emotionally – so they can thrive in school and in life. By convening community partners, local education representatives, early childhood education nonprofits, and parent leaders, Bachman Lake Together manages a common agenda, creates shared learning, aligns a plan of action, ensures coordination among partners, gathers and shares community-level data, and creates a network of community support.

Education Opens Doors: Activates all students to determine and pursue an informed future. To achieve this goal, the EOD Program partners with schools and other student-centered programs in the community to reach middle and early high school students (ages 12 to 16) from communities of color, those living in low-income communities, and future first-generation college students. The EOD Program equips teachers with the tools they need to increase expectations, motivation, and college and career knowledge in their classrooms.

Empowering the Masses: Empowers underserved individuals by providing life skills and educational training services. Empowering the Masses helps each individual achieve long term financial independence and self-sufficiency in order to become productive in their families and community.

First Choice Social Services: Dedicated to being the First Choice in social services to provide treatment to families affected by domestic violence, substance abuse, and teen homelessness. 

For Oak Cliff: Provides culturally responsive initiatives in South Oak Cliff to liberate the community from systemic oppression, create a culture of education, and increase social mobility and social capital. The programs offer a dual-generation approach, providing services for youth as well as adults simultaneously, including early childhood literacy programs, GED programs, healthcare access, and other social programs.

Readers 2 Leaders: Remains the only out-of-school time organization in Dallas with programs dedicated solely toward addressing the literacy gap. With a combination of training, ongoing coaching, and customized curriculum support, Readers 2 Leaders believes every organization can be a first responder to our city’s reading emergency.

Stars United Global Outreach: Works with at risk youth to deliver high impact training by empowering, educating, and mobilizing them to create social change and break barriers. Stars United Global Outreach currently has a program called Blueprint For Success that has four pillars:  Leadership, Life Skills, Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship for youth between the ages of 10-18 years of age.

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