Member Spotlight: Bunmi Esho, FCF Education Circle Co-Chair
Editor's Note: In recognition of National Education Month, we recently caught up with FCF Education Circle Co-Chair Bunmi Esho to learn about the intersectionality of education, social justice, and more. Also, check out a recent blog by FCF Education Circle Co-Chair Lisa Olson.
How did you become involved with FCF?
Before moving to the Bay Area, I was actively involved in Rotary, giving circles, and nonprofit boards in the San Diego area. I was looking for a volunteer opportunity that melded these experiences. Interestingly enough, a LinkedIn connection and Full Circle Fund (FCF) member shared information on the January 2019 Kickoff on LinkedIn, so I signed up to attend. The Kickoff meeting involved members, prospective members, and grant partners coming together to learn about the issues impacting Bay Area nonprofits, identifying which issue areas resonated for each of us personally, and forming smaller groups to create the first steps in tackling these issues. At that January meeting, I knew that this is where I wanted to give my time. The next day I signed up to become a member of FCF. After a few more informational sessions, I committed to being an active part of the Education team.
What is the unique role that FCF Members play when collaborating with Grant Partners?
What makes FCF unique, at least on the Education team, is that members of the team are a mix: from veteran nonprofit leaders to professionals with experience in the corporate education space, to those with no education industry experience. With that in mind, we see Grant Partners as the expert in their field and come into the conversation emphasizing that aspect. Our varied backgrounds also help us look at an issue with a different lens, and provide skills-based services like marketing and research design, which would be a significant expenditure for the Grant Partner. For many of my teammates, working with Tandem was the first time they’d really considered the impact of early childhood education; our collaboration with Community Education Partnerships helped many of us understand the structures embedded in homelessness; and our recent partnership with Urban Ed Academy highlighted for the team the importance of teachers of color, or more specifically Black male teachers, in elevating Black student achievement. Through experiences like these, each year, we’ve had at least one member directly engage with the Grant Partner afterward, as a volunteer, donor, or both.
What was one of the biggest challenges your volunteer team worked on with a Grant Partner in the past three years?
Last year, like the rest of the world, was the first time we were forced to work virtually as a project team. Our Grant Partner, Community Education Partnerships, wanted help creating an impact report, similar to the one we developed the year before, for Tandem, Partners in Early Learning. An important part of developing a compelling report is gathering data, which means connecting with the communities impacted. For CEP, the communities they serve are students who face homelessness or housing insecurity, and as a result, experience real challenges with digital access--the main mode of connection during the pandemic. This reality added even more weight to the value of the report and the critical need to highlight the voices of the youth impacted by education and digital divides exacerbated by the pandemic.
After a year of distance learning, what are the biggest challenges/opportunities for nonprofit education organizations?
The pandemic highlighted a situation that was already evident to educational nonprofits--the widening learning gap and digital divide, especially for underrepresented communities. After 18 months, many nonprofits are seeing the remote and virtual mode of communication as an opportunity to expand their volunteer reach. Previously, a mentoring or tutoring opportunity would mean focusing on local volunteers, limiting the breadth and scope of expertise to those in a region; and now, with virtual opportunities, mentors across the country, or on the other end of the world, can connect with students and families. Sponsoring companies can also provide tangible support with tech products like laptops and mobile hotspots. The ongoing challenge is how to ensure these opportunities are sustainable, lasting beyond the next year, to a “normal” way of life.
What role does intersectionality play in mobilizing a new generation of stakeholders in the education movement?
Education in the United States has a history stemmed in systemic racism with past and current policies that have played a role in the educational inequities that exist between white and Black and Brown students. With these realities in mind, it’s important for us to:
Have a fuller understanding of who ALL the stakeholders are in the education space from the communities that are impacted to the businesses and the employees in and near the neighborhoods,
Appreciate that EVERY stakeholder has a role and responsibility in the education movement,
Create space for stakeholders whose voices have historically been muted,
Acknowledge that the communities we serve understand their needs the best, and
Re-frame our work in terms of long-term sustainability and investment.
What is the most rewarding part of your FCF project experience?
As a volunteer, I always feel I learn from the experiences I have: with Tandem, Early Learning Partners, I gained a stronger perspective on the status of early childhood education. Collaborating with Community Education Partnerships shed a more looming light on the realities of homelessness and housing insecurity for students, during a global pandemic, and our most recent project with Urban Ed Academy highlighted what it takes to support Black male teachers in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. Knowing all these organizations exist, and continue to thrive, keeps me coming back to FCF. As an FCF co-chair and nonprofit professional, the most rewarding part is seeing FCF members return as volunteers each year to work on new projects and step into leadership opportunities.