HIP to Denver: Convening on Education

anne carlos denver(Left) Carlos Martinez, Executive Director LCFC (Right) Anne Hand, Program Manager of Health and Education Focused Initiatives at HIP Just about the time turkeys began to thaw and cranberries were being pulled from grocery store shelves, a group of five grantees, three grantmakers, and a college professor met at the Gates Family Foundation in downtown Denver to discuss education. In October 2012, Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) was awarded a grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support the project HIP to College: Building Networks of Funders for Latino Student Success. A report was commissioned by Excelencia in Education to identify funders and determine the most optimal sites in which to launch the program. Colorado and North Carolina were selected, and HIP to College was off. The November convening in Denver was an opportunity for HIP, along with funding partners Rose Community Foundation and Latino Community Foundation of Colorado (LCFC), to meet in person, discuss the project in detail, and hear implementation presentations from the participating Colorado grantees. In August of this year, planning grants were awarded to five education-focused grantees in the Denver-Metro area to develop detailed plans to address Summer Melt. Summer Melt is when seemingly college-intending students fail to enroll in college after high school graduation. There are many external factors that contribute to this “melting” as well as a variety of logistical and sometimes personal reasons a student might fail to enroll. HIP to College in Colorado provides an opportunity for organizations to build creative programs that provide high school graduating students with the resources and support to not only enroll in college, but to also stay in college. The presentations took place in the morning, and each organization took approximately 15 minutes to detail its Summer Melt program plans. The presentations were chock full of graphics and descriptive features, the content was compelling, and the Q&A’s were thorough and lively. It was a highly satisfying and informative (for grantmaker and grantee) way to begin the day. At HIP’s convenings, networking is front and center, which gives nonprofits working on similar issues a chance to connect that they may not otherwise have had. After a delicious array of sandwiches were delivered, and everybody had a chance to eat and mingle with people from the other organizations at the table, the convening recommenced. A short debrief of the morning presentations yielded a conversation between grantees about collaboration and collective impact. Within minutes ideas for sharing resources and combining networks began flying around the room. It was clear the organizations were excited about the projects, and eager to begin helping each other address the issues of Summer Melt in a cohesive, supportive manner. This was an extremely affirming thing to witness. To see the grantees already working together, before final proposals had been submitted or implementation grants awarded, attested to the importance and legitimacy of the project in Colorado. The final component of the already action-packed convening was a heated discussion with Dr. Debora Ortega, a professor from the University of Denver. The underlying message of her talk was that, in the Denver area, the need is great. Students often fall through the cracks, especially Latino students, and it takes extra support from programs, mentors, and teachers to help them up. She made the point that, “public education is part of our welfare system,” or that it should be. In other words, public education should be a system students can count on to help them graduate from high school, attend college, and get the job they want. All in all the convening was positive and beneficial for all who attended. A productive day fueled by a deeply rooted commitment to Latino Student Success, strengthening the pipeline from high school to college.