Educational Opportunities Are A Tool For Dismantling Systemic Racism


Editor's Note: In recognition of National Education Month, we recently caught up with FCF Education Circle Co-Chair Lisa Olson to learn about the intersectionality of education, social justice, and more. Also, check out our Member Spotlight with FCF Education Circle Co-Chair Bunmi Esho.


By Lisa Olson, FCF Education Circle Co-Chair


Am I doing enough? That was the question that first motivated me to join the Full Circle Fund (FCF) in 2018. I had relocated to San Francisco and was looking to join others who also struggled with the extreme wealth inequality in the Bay Area and wanted to work together to create a more equitable Bay Area.


I joined the Education Circle because I have long believed that education is a great equalizer and can provide a path out of poverty for families and children. My first project was with Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, a nonprofit working at the intersection of social justice and early childhood education. Tandem works to reduce the barriers to access to early education that many families face, especially those children impacted by racism, poverty, and other systemic failures. Our project brought together a diverse group of committed individuals to create an impact report that has been used to increase fundraising and educate and attract community partners. I so believe in Tandem’s work that I joined their board and co-led a strategic planning process that ultimately will enable Tandem to better achieve its vision of a just society where children thrive.


Am I doing enough? This question again reared its head in the Summer of 2020 after George Floyd was murdered and protests for racial justice spread around the nation. As I read and learned more about the effects of systemic racism, I wondered if I should refocus my efforts and work more with nonprofits and other organizations directly fighting racism. The FCF Education Circle had just partnered with Community Education Partnerships (CEP), a nonprofit that works with students experiencing homelessness by providing one-on-one tutoring and other support to help students stay engaged and succeed in school. As we worked with CEP to do another impact report we discovered that over 90% of the students CEP served were black, indigenous, or people of color. I then realized that working with FCF grant partners to provide educational opportunities is a tool for dismantling systemic racism.


This year the Education Circle partnered with Urban Ed Academy, a nonprofit that directly builds equity in education by increasing Black male teacher representation in San Francisco schools. Urban Ed aims to give every Black student at least one Black male teacher before the 6th grade, thereby drastically affecting academic outcomes for Black students and societal outcomes for all students. The team worked on a marketing project to help Urban Ed attract millennial donors to support this work.


Am I doing enough? I still don’t know the answer to that question, but I am grateful for the opportunities that Full Circle Fund has provided me to do something and for connecting me with others who want to do the same. I realized there are many ways to address inequality (including the work of the other FCF Impact Area Circles and the FCF corporate and tech accelerators), but for me working with education nonprofits is my path to doing what I can to create a more equitable Bay Area.


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