Meet SVP’s Newest Investee | Somali Parents Education Board

Posted by Zach Grossnickle — May 28, 2020

Welcome our Newest Investee!

This May, the K-12 Education New Grant Committee selected Somali Parent Education Board (SPEB) as the next multi-year capacity building investee with an initial unrestricted grant of $30,000! It was a competitive candidate pool and we encourage you to learn about all the amazing finalists at the bottom of this post.

Somali Parents Education Board was founded in 2014 in response to systemic barriers Somali children, youth and their parents were facing when trying to advocate for students’ success in the education system. Today, they support not only Somali families, but also Latinx, Asian, and other African immigrant and refugee families who experience similar systemic challenges to having their voices heard and their experiences honored by educators. Working in South King County, in the seven Road Map Region school districts.

SPEB puts their families first and they say that, “they are the ones impacted by school systems, we believe that they should lead efforts to effect change. We work from a place of partnership, even when, or perhaps especially when, conversations are difficult or uncomfortable. Our work is rooted in pushing for equity in education systems. We were founded because we were seeing that, at school, where our children should feel welcomed, safe, and supported, our youth did not feel like they were an integrated part of the school community.”

SPEB’s thoughtful strategies and proven impact of their work are not new to SVP. SPEB has been a grantee of SVP since 2018 through the Education Collective Action Team (EduCAT). The EduCAT invests in local, collective action initiatives addressing the disparities in our education system. SPEB’s Executive Director, Regina Elmi, shared “we are really humbled and honored to continue to work with people we have built relationships with for the last two years. We have felt in the last two years we have gotten to call on SVP and we know we can count on the team and partners at SVP.” During their time with EduCAT investment, SPEB supported parent leaders to attend the first Transforming Partnership Leadership Institute). The institute is dedicated to creating a space for educators, parents, and students to learn from each other.

SPEB is at a key inflection point in time for their work and programs – and a great time to engage in capacity building with SVP. Since they started working with Rainer Valley Corps (RVC), SPEB has taken vital steps to grow from an all-volunteer organization to hiring their first paid staff in early 2019. During this time, they have also increased their visibility, and have gained the support of several institutional funders giving them multiyear grants to provide stability in staffing and delivery of current programs. With these critical infrastructure components in place, they are poised now to build greater capacity so that they can grow and sustain both their programs and the organization as a whole.  Regina shared enthusiasm for the future saying “SPEB is most excited about this new journey we are about to embark on with our partners at SVP. Thinking about the next five years for SPEB and all the growth ahead and capacity building.”  SVP is excited to build alongside SPEB – helping to improve and progress their efforts as well as connecting the partnership with their transformative work over the coming years!

A Year of Evolving SVP’s Grantmaking

This past year proved to be one of great change for our own grantmaking processes.  SVP’s K-12 New Grant Committee (NGC) focused on the importance of racial equity and the adaptability of organizations in times of crisis. Due to COVID-19 not only did the committee have to pivot to a virtual format but also the finalists. The grace and flexibility of the committee this year showed our values and the importance of how this grant can help support an organization.

Alongside the NGC, SVP piloted an Advisory Grant Committee (AGC) comprised of 40% SVP Partners and 60% Community Members. They were tasked with narrowing the initial pool of grant applicants to give to the New Grant Committee to review. The Advisory Committee gave a different perspective on the initial applicants for the K-12 Education Grant Cycle. Their racial equity and community-centered lens helped shape the tone and importance of community-based organizations, ensuring that those most impacted have representation in the decision-making process (We will share more about his process in a future post).

More Information on SPEB’s Programs and Impact

SPEB focuses on closing education gaps by promoting parent leaders in the K-12 education system. Prioritizing engaging parents because they believe that systems-change work needs to be led by those affected so that they can become their agents of change. Out of this, SPEB’s work was founded on an awareness of gaps that immigrant and refugee parents experience:

  • a communications gap preventing K-12 educators and administrators from getting to know and understand the needs and concerns of immigrant families.
  • an encouragement gap preventing our youth from feeling supported to take challenging classes or strive for educational goals.
  • a partnership gap leaving our families feeling that their voices and needs are ignored.
  • the ongoing practice of ignoring immigrant and refugee communities’ needs and cultures within school environments is overt and threatens the academic and social success of these families’ students.

SPEB’s Transforming Partnerships Leadership Institute helps enable parent and educator participants to deal with issues they are facing in the education system. Their uniquely community-oriented approach has been successful, and they have several ongoing multi-year community action projects started by participants that address educational issues. SPEB writes: “As a result of this capacity-building work, we expect to see a significant impact for both our organization and our community. SPEB will continue to provide personalized coaching and support, but [their] work will increasingly fall behind the scenes as parents become change-agents.”

SPEB’s model of centering community is shown in the ways that their programs are developed and how they evolve. This centering exists throughout all their programming and even in the organization’s data collection. In partnership with the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC), SPEB discovered that when collecting their data, they could implement basic strategies to obtain program data. They instead “restructured [their] project to allow for relationship building and collected 600 surveys over tea – one family at a time. In this manner, [SPEB] developed strong ties and cultivated community leaders that are equipped to facilitate other works of advocacy and system change. The process was exciting, revealing what community leaders can do when they have the power to drive their own data story”.

The Other Finalists Everyone Should Know About

From closing the education gap to bringing more undeserved youth into STEM, this year’s K-12 Education Grant finalists all work hard to ensure all students — regardless of income or race —graduate from high school ready to succeed in college or a career. SVP’s New Grant Committee reviewed a many competitive applications, as well as conducted phone interviews with the top candidates before selecting the following finalists. Though these organizations were not selected, their work deserves notice and we ask for you to learn more about these three amazing organizations!

Stem Pathways Innovation Network – Increases student and community access to STEM and build culturally relevant collaboration and problem-solving skills that will support underserved youth and communities to succeed in STEM-based fields. SPIN is in direct conversation with their communities and has used surveys to understand their communities growing needs. They feel that now is the time to leapfrog over bureaucracy and get technology into the hands of kiddos and their families so they can access online tools and connect with their teachers and classmates.

Congolese Integration Network – A non-profit organization in South Seattle led by and for Congolese immigrants and refugees. CIN provides our community members with access to critical resources including housing assistance, interpretation services, and employment support. By bringing community together and advocating for their health and well-being, they facilitate the social, economic, cultural, and spiritual integration of Congolese immigrants and refugees into their homes in Washington state.

South East Seattle Education Coalition – Their mission is to rally communities of color and allies to improve Southeast Seattle schools, so all students succeed, and all families are empowered. Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC) is a coalition of Community Based Organizations schools, educators, community leaders, parents and caregivers, and concerned SE Seattle residents working to improve education for all children, especially those in SE Seattle and those farthest away from educational justice.