Mi Escuelita is a nonprofit preschool that prepares young, economically disadvantaged children from all cultures for a “successful school experience.” Their goal is to teach non-English speaking children English prior to entering school in an effort to lessen the need for ESL classes. They also teach the children life skills that will better prepare them for their educational experiences.
Gayle Nave, Executive Director of Mi Escuelita, says she grew up in a family that was “not blessed with material possessions.” Looking back now, Gayle says she realizes that her family was poor, but then she didn’t have a clue. Part of her contentment stemmed from the fact that Gayle’s mother invested so much time in her children—reading and encouraging them to learn. “My parents were always so adamant about education,” she says. “I strongly believe that teaching our children while they’re young is most important…I’m not sure if my mother wasn’t so dedicated to instill the love of learning in us I’d be doing this.” Because of her mother’s influence, Gayle says she wants to help others do the same, even if they can’t afford to do it for themselves. “I want to help families who don’t have the resources,” she says.
Like many others, Gayle started out in the business world, working as an accountant. When she worked briefly with Mi Escuelita, she says she “fell in love” with the program, and decided to move to the nonprofit arena. “You cannot help but fall in love with the program,” she says. SVP Dallas’ biggest impact with Mi Escuelita is the collaboration that the partners bring to bear on the organization, says Gayle. “We are fortunate to have Susan and George,” she says. “I’ve learned that there is power in teams.”
Lead Partner, Susan Hoff says that Mi Escuelita’s mission was particularly attractive because the organization will be able to sustain itself as it grows and matures. “They started out as a grassroots organization to invest into the community,” she says. “Now they are going from an entrepreneurial organization to operationalize themselves. They are getting to the stage where [they are] kind of grown up—operationalize [themselves], become more systemic, but sustain [themselves] and [their] entrepreneurial spirit. Not to just keep changing…but keep as much excitement as [they] can.”
George Ellis, another lead partner for Mi Escuelita, echoes Gayle’s sentiments regarding collaborative efforts. His most memorable moments, he says, are when he “sees it work.” “When the board and ED move…one or two or three pithy things that can be done, and watching the collective light bulb go on.” George says he’d really like to see “SVP Dallas make [investees] take a risk, to spur the ED to think of a wild hair idea” to make the organization more relevant, effective, and innovative.
Susan says the SVP Dallas model just makes sense. “The investors are learning as much about nonprofits [as the nonprofits are learning about investors],” she says. “It’s a great educational experience on both sides. It builds good nonprofits and good donors.” As for education, Susan says she’d like the community to know more about SVP Dallas and what engaged philanthropy is all about. “I want people to know what we mean by ‘engaged philanthropy,’” she says. “It’d be great if we could explain it to people. It’s a commonsense model: Invest time and resources in a targeted way and you will get social return.”
For George, the [philanthropic] experience grants more than simple social returns or financial growth. “At some point, it becomes an experience that’s transformational,” he says. “There’s a mystical moment when your mind shifts away from the rational to ‘this is something cool.’ The heartfelt experience of being able to help those organizations become more secure and meaningful…there’s a transcendental nature to this sucker.”