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Supporting Innovation in Education

July 28, 2015
With Echoing Green, investing in an impressive collection of emerging leaders

At the Walton Family Foundation, we invest in what works in K-12 education. This is only logical given the urgency of this cause. We also take pride in supporting ideas that have the potential to grow into organizations that will create equity and opportunity for all American students.

One of the ways we’re supporting innovation in education is through our new partnership with Echoing Green — a nonprofit social venture fund that identifies and supports social entrepreneurs. With Echoing Green, we are investing in an impressive collection of emerging leaders who are dedicated to improving life outcomes for high-needs students.

We were excited to meet the fellows we are supporting at the Echoing Green New Fellows Retreat in New York City recently.

We met Jonathan Johnson, the founder of Rooted School in New Orleans, who is working with our grantees 4.0 Schools and New Schools for New Orleans to launch a high school that will prepare at-risk students for college and also for work — connecting them with job opportunities in digital media.

“I want students to feel ownership of their future and the choices they make,” Johnson said.

We met Jason Terrell and Mario Jovan Shaw — the founders of Profound Gentlemen, a community of black male educators based in North Carolina that is on a mission to attract more black male educators into America’s classrooms.

Mario Jovan Shaw at Ranson Middle School in Charlotte, N.C.

“Our goal is to highlight positive images and create positive outcomes for kids,” Terrell told us.

We met Heejae Lim, the founder of TalkingPoints, which enables teachers to easily send text messages in multiple languages to parents with classroom news and student-specific updates.

“Our vision,” she told us, “is to really empower the parents in the communities that we care about to believe that their engagement matters and to believe that they can engage.”

Heejae Lim, the founder of TalkingPoints

And we met Amy Vreeland of TrueSchool Studio, who is leveraging the expertise of teachers and other educators in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New Orleans to redesign classrooms, schools, and systems.

“We’re really rethinking the role of the contemporary educator,” she said.

The Echoing Green fellows are asking important questions — and proposing breakthrough ideas about how those questions could be answered to improve lives. Their ideas are fresh, their entrepreneurial spirit is infectious, and their passion is a reminder to us all to keep innovating.

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