By Sabine Kortals Stein
As COVID-19 shines a spotlight on inequities in Boulder County – including financial and resource disparities among schools, school districts, and students – we turned to local thought leader Allison Billings for perspective.
“This spring, school closures across Boulder County due to coronavirus concerns quickly brought entrenched educational inequalities to the surface,” says Allison, serving as executive director of Impact on Education since 2018. “Especially now – given the effects of the pandemic on schools – the needs of BVSD students keep piling up.
“The last few months have been indicative of how essential our organization is in this community, with school closures really highlighting the inequities we work to manage and mitigate. Some of what’s happening now is circumstantial, but much of what’s coming to light is systemic.”
In response to the inequities that exist and persist in our community, Impact on Education has become renowned for creative programs that provide opportunities for students of low-income families to overcome our county’s well-documented achievement gap, help prevent student dropout, use innovative programs and best practices to increase student learning, and empower and support excellent educators.
Currently, Impact on Education’s wide-ranging projects and programs impact some 31K students and 4K educators every year. Among its myriad programs, Crayons to Calculators aims to ensure that all students in the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley school districts start school with the supplies they need to succeed.
“Now more than ever, we want our community to remember that no matter where our students learn, and no matter in what format – open, closed, or hybrid – we remain committed to supporting all our students,” explains Allison. “Due to COVID-19, we’ve had to significantly adapt Crayons to Calculators. But with the help of sponsors, donors, and hundreds of volunteers, this program is once again providing thousands of backpacks filled with essential supplies for kids in need.”
[Through August 15, learn how to get involved in the Crayons to Calculators School Support Drive.]
Continues Allison, “We’re also deepening our equity work overall right now. We’re taking a hard look at all our programs and activities to determine how best we can empower our students and their families, while eliminating the structures that work against them.”
What’s more, Impact on Education is working to ensure that all Boulder County kids have Internet access and requisite learning technologies, and that its food distribution continues during the pandemic.
“School closures due to COVID-19 have a direct impact on area students and families,” says Allison. “By donating to our Critical Needs Fund, community members can help support nutritious meals for families, provide school supplies for at-home learning, and provide enrichment opportunities kids affected by a prolonged loss of regular classroom instruction.”
More broadly, Allison believes that leadership in times of crisis means “getting in there and doing the work.”
She adds, “It’s important to stay focused on what you’re trying to accomplish, and to stay nimble and flexible. It’s also important for donors to understand that need to be flexible, and to deepen their trust in us. To that end, communication is key.”
Indeed, Impact on Education regularly shares news and information about its accomplishments, impact – and needs. Impact on Education staff also reach out and thank donors and other supporters by phone. “We’ve proven that we’re good stewards of the dollars we receive, and that we’re deeply committed to seeing the day when there’s no longer a need for organizations like ours,” she says.
- TRENDS Report: Our Education (Community Foundation Boulder County)
- Time to fix American education with race-for-space resolve (Harvard Gazette)
- Have nonprofit and philanthropy become the “white moderate” that Dr. King warned us about? (Nonprofit AF)