The Boulder Fund will support and nurture ideas developed by leaders of color in education

For Immediate Release: January 31, 2018
Contact: Donald Gatlin,, 202-587-2871

LOS ANGELES— Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC) announced the inaugural cohort of its Boulder Fund grantees today. The Boulder Fund is a new multi-million dollar grant program to support the innovations of leaders of color in education. The inaugural cohort of six education leaders of color across the country has been awarded a total of $800,000 to support the launch or expansion of creative solutions to some of the most pressing issues in the field.

EdLoC is a young nonprofit organization with a mission to break through the polarizing divides that have consumed efforts to improve public education. It was launched in 2016 by, and for, leaders of color in education and related fields, to connect, elevate and empower each other to advance solutions that benefit Black and Latino children nationwide. Its national membership is motivated by a desire to transcend the current paradigm in education and is united by EdLoC’s Third Way Values: ending generational poverty; creating sustainable change; creating schools for all children; advancing multiple innovations; and going beyond education to holistically address the barriers to success for Black and Latino kids.

Layla Avila, EdLoC CEO and Executive Director, said “We are thrilled to be expanding our work by putting our money where our mouth is. Our goal as an organization is to create an education field that worries less about which side of a debate we’re on and more about solutions — particularly for students of color and lower income students. To do that, we need leaders who align with our Third Way Values, have the support to start and nurture their ideas and initiatives, and understand that focusing on education alone will limit our success.”

Boulder Fund grants are awarded for a one year period in increments of $100,000-$150,000 per award. This year’s grantees understand that a focus on education is critical for improving the academic and life outcomes of students. But they also understand that focusing on education alone limits our potential for success. That’s why their innovations merge education with other social and economic issues — housing, jobs, health, criminal justice — that impact the learning of students and the success of communities.

The six winners are listed below:

Marla Dean, Executive Director/CEO, Bright Beginnings in Washington, DC, for improving school readiness of homeless children by exposing them to 45 million words by age 5 using a Language Tracker. This tracker holds software that records and captures language usage and vocal interactions and provides cloud-based data to guide parents, caregivers, teachers, and home visitors. The technology and resulting data have the potential to personalize interventions for students and families, and support a data-driven and evidence-based organization.

Veronica Palmer, Co-Founder and CEO, RISE Colorado in Aurora, CO, for an innovative family engagement model focused on creating strong partnerships between schools and families, with the goal of improving academic outcomes for low-income students and students of color in Aurora, CO. In 2018, RISE will further develop its program to include elementary and middle schools, making it a full P-12 model. It will pilot curriculum to engage and empower teen students; provide diversity, equity, and inclusion professional development to staff in its partner schools; and work to link its work to improved academic achievement.

Marvin Pierre, Program Director, Eight Million Stories in Houston, TX, for providing disconnected youth who have been pushed out of the school system with an opportunity to complete their education and obtain meaningful employment in order to drastically reduce the recidivism rates of justice-involved youth in the city of Houston.

Derwin Sisnett, Founder and Managing Partner, Maslow Development, Inc. in Memphis, TN, for designing and developing the Maslow Memphis Lighthouse Project to address the factors that contribute to underperforming schools. The Lighthouse Project is a 100+ acre mixed-use community that will serve as the flagship Maslow community and an exemplar for learning-centered communities to come. While an educational component will be central to the mixed-use development, the design will also be anchored by mixed-income housing, workforce development, and health and wellness initiatives.

Paris Woods, Co-Founder and Executive Director, College Beyond in New Orleans, LA, for combating the enormous challenges low-income students face in transitioning to college, by investing resources and general support efforts in the summer before and during a student’s first year of college to generate a long-term, transformative impact on a student’s life in college and beyond.

Nicole Young, Executive Director, Bard Early College Academy in New Orleans, LA, for enabling young people with limited exposure to higher education to start a full-time undergraduate curriculum after the 10th grade, immerse themselves in rigorous and rewarding liberal arts coursework led by highly qualified college faculty, and earn a transferable Bard College Associate in Arts degree, tuition-free.


About EdLoC:
Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC) is a membership organization of 300 leaders of color working to elevate the leadership, voices and influence of people of color in education and to leading more inclusive efforts to improve education. EdLoC aims to advance a third way that breaks through the polarizing divides that have consumed efforts to improve public education and to forge the alliances needed to realize and sustain EdLoC’s vision of providing low-income children of color expansive and substantive opportunities for the highest levels of academic and economic attainment.