A Message to Our Community Partners

Danielle M. Reyes & Gabriela Smith

We are writing to you with hope that you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy. During this time, the foundation and its team members remain committed to our community partnerships, as we all experience the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) personally and professionally.

In light of unforeseen challenges of the current climate, we are adapting some practices, while doubling down on others. Over the past week, we’ve connected directly with partners to address any specific concerns. In addition, we seek to provide flexibility and support to all of our community partners in the following ways:

  1. Extensions for reports and proposals. The Foundation reminds you of its existing policy of flexibility with proposal and final report due dates as urgent needs arise. Contact us.
  2. Sharing your messages. The Crimsonbridge Foundation and its team want to help share your work and needs and will use our communications resources to extend your reach. Have an urgent message? Email your program officer.
  3. Added accessibility. We are here for you. Though working remotely, our team members can always be reached by email and can now be reached by Zoom and Google Hangouts.
  4. Staying connected. Our whole team is on Twitter as is the Foundation at @CrimsonbridgeDC. Please know we value all of your communications and are reviewing our grantee partner information daily, from email to online news.

We also want to say, “Thank you!” to our nonprofit and school community partners for all that you continue to do during this unprecedented time. Though information on COVID-19 continues to develop daily, we’ve watched schools and nonprofits demonstrate their ability to be responsive, nimble, and committed to the children and families of our region. We stand with you in this commitment.


Danielle M. Reyes, Executive Director and Gabriela Smith, Founder & President

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Goal to Reach 21,000 Adult Learners by 2021

Caitlin Furey January 2020

The Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy (MCAEL), a coalition of over 60 English language instruction programs, is working to build a thriving community and effective workforce in Montgomery County, MD.  According to census data, there are over 126,000 adults in the county who are limited in their English proficiency.  In response to a growing need for English language instruction, MCAEL set a goal to grow its annual reach from 15,000 to 21,000 adult learners by 2021.  Potential strategies for expansion include partnering with public schools, utilizing literacy apps to serve learners who cannot attend in-person classes, and providing tools to community-based organizations that are positioned to start their own ESOL programs.  The Crimsonbridge Foundation is supporting these targeted efforts to develop new ESOL learning opportunities for hard-to-reach populations in Montgomery County.  In this video, hear from two adult learners about their experiences learning English at the Family Discovery Center, a provider in the MCAEL network. 

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Investing in A Complete Count for the 2020 Census

Brendon Smith January 2020

The Crimsonbridge Foundation has awarded $60,000 in grants to five nonprofit organizations in the Greater Washington region that are working to increase participation in the 2020 Census. The organizations, which include Ayuda, Identity Inc., Latin American Youth Center, Liberty’s Promise, and Mary’s Center, are committed to supporting a complete count effort that includes the clients, families, and communities they work with every day.

Why is it important for philanthropy to invest in getting a complete census count? The census informs how government, businesses, researchers, and communities make significant decisions, including allocating political representation, opening or closing businesses, and providing social services. It is estimated that more than 55,000 individuals in the Greater Washington region were undercounted in the 2010 Census and that the full need of our community was not captured.

According to a 2016 report from the Census Bureau, low-income communities, English language learners, and immigrants are among populations that are historically undercounted in the census. The census is supposed to count every living person in the U.S., regardless of citizenship status. Although the Supreme Court ruled against including a citizenship question in the 2020 Census, an atmosphere of misinformation, fear, and uncertainty persists, heightening the risk of an undercount.

In 2019, the Crimsonbridge Foundation expanded its Bridges Program, which supports nonprofits in developing communications tools and strategies to effectively reach and engage with bilingual and Spanish-speaking families, to include work specific to the 2020 Census. Organizations were selected for Bridges Census 2020 grants based not only on their outreach strategy, but on their knowledge, established relationships, and expertise in working with multi-lingual immigrant communities.

The following is a snapshot of the 2020 Census Complete Count plans for each of the five grant recipients. To learn more we encourage you to visit the websites of these community partners.

Ayuda, a nonprofit legal services provider, has developed a multi-pronged strategy that involves outreach through social media and community events, as well as training staff attorneys, social workers, and volunteers on how to talk to their clients about the census. All outreach will be conducted in multiple languages, including Spanish, French, Amharic, Tagalog, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Portuguese.

Identity, Inc., which works with youth and their families who live in high-poverty areas of Montgomery County, will execute their ¡Tú Sí Cuentas! You Do Count! project throughout Montgomery County to ensure that low-income Latinos, recent immigrants, and TransLatinx residents are counted in the 2020 Census. The project will start with a needs assessment to determine the primary obstacles that are likely to prevent individuals from completing the census in 2020. Identity will then create an awareness and outreach strategy to be implemented in five of the top ten non-respondent communities of Montgomery County.

Latin American Youth Center, which has served immigrant youth and families in the region for more than 50 years, will leverage a current program, the Teen Center Media Program, and create a cohort of 30 youth who will learn about the census and design a plan to increase local participation and awareness. After researching the effects of the census on their community, youth will work in the LAYC’s Media Arts Lab to develop bilingual outreach materials on census facts and myths and execute an outreach campaign in the Columbia Heights neighborhood.

Liberty’s Promise is partnering with the City of Gaithersburg to target census outreach and education to a specific hard-to-count census tract in Gaithersburg, where nearly half of residents are foreign-born, and 20 percent report that no one in the household speaks English “very well.” Liberty’s Promise will add a census component to their existing civic engagement program at Gaithersburg High School, which is offered in English and Spanish. Youth participants will attend regional complete count meetings and develop and execute an outreach plan designed to increase response rates in the hard-to-count community in which they live.

Mary’s Center, a provider of high-quality healthcare, education, and social services, will identify and train Census Champions from among their staff to lead efforts throughout the organization to educate and motivate staff and community members around the 2020 Census. By incorporating census education into the existing workflow, Mary’s Center will reach more than 500 community members each day. Mary’s Center received a grant from the DC Mayor’s Office to support census outreach in DC, and Crimsonbridge support will expand outreach to their two Maryland sites.

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Schools Invest in Spanish Language Resources to Welcome, Support, and Engage Families

Last month we reported that 16 DC area schools have received Bridges for Schools grants to support strategic Spanish and bilingual communications capacity building. Since 2018, this funding has helped participating Catholic schools invest in strategies and resources to create a welcoming environment, promote engagement and participation of Hispanic families, and increase enrollment of Hispanic students.

What do these investments look like? That’s the exciting part! Bridges for Schools grants are tailored, so that each school has the opportunity to determine their specific needs and identify resources. Over the past two years, these schools have found research-based and creative ways to expand their Spanish-language resources, marketing, and outreach. A vast majority of the schools use funding for human translation of school marketing and enrollment materials, which helps to ensure equitable access for Spanish-speaking families. Many schools are adding original Spanish-language content to their website, and one school will produce a Spanish-language video for their website. Other schools have chosen to hire Spanish-speaking liaisons or to provide stipends for translators at schools open houses and other events.

This month, we’re featuring two Bridges for Schools recipients, who have used their $2,500 grant to successfully develop their Spanish language communications capacity and outreach.

Saint Michael’s School – Latino Liaison has Transformative Impact

Since becoming the school principal in 2006, Lila Hofmeister has worked to create a welcoming environment for all families, especially the increasing number of Latino students and families in their school community. For years, Saint Michael’s relied on volunteers to provide Spanish-language support in the school office. When Saint Michael’s applied for Bridges for Schools in 2018, they requested funding to hire a part-time bilingual Latino Liaison to work in the front office and create a bridge between Spanish-speaking parents and school faculty. Although the new employee was only in the office for 12 hours each week, she had an immediate and transformative impact on the school. From translating the school’s weekly newsletter to hosting events that bring together the parish and school communities, the role of the Latino Liaison has become essential. This year, Saint Michael’s received additional funding through Bridges for Schools to increase the role to nearly full-time. After the 2018-19 school year, Principal Hofmeister shared that hiring “a Latino Liaison has positively impacted our total school environment, enabling all staff to widely communicate with our families. We are able to actively engage our students and parents in school activities and encourage their participation when they may otherwise be hesitant.” Removing barriers to parent engagement is truly making a difference at Saint Michael’s.

Academy of the Holy Cross – Bilingual Parent Ambassadors Connect with Community

In 2018, the Academy of the Holy Cross used the Bridges for Schools grant to add Spanish-language content to the school website, translate admissions information, host open houses with Spanish-language translators, and launch a Parent Ambassador program that includes bilingual parents from the school community. In 2019, Holy Cross will continue their great work with the Parent Ambassadors Program. As explained by Danielle Ballantine, the school’s Director of Communications, “the Parent Ambassador Program at The Academy of the Holy Cross is an important way for us to connect with the community. We have over 45 parents, including several bilingual parents, who are already sharing their enthusiasm about Holy Cross and are actively involved both here and in their elementary and parish communities. Ambassadors provide prospective families their own personal experiences for navigating the high school selection process. Through the Parent Ambassador Program, we hope to continue to strengthen our relationships within the Latino community and further increase applications and enrollments of Latino students.” The Parent Ambassadors Program is just one example of how Holy Cross is working towards their mission to create a welcoming environment within and beyond the school bounds.

Learn more about Bridges for Schools and our Hispanic Education Imperative!

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Robyn Attebury Ellis Joins Crimsonbridge to Lead College Success Work

Washington, DC – The Crimsonbridge Foundation welcomes Robyn Attebury Ellis as its new program officer for College Success and Leadership.  Since its inception in 2015, Crimsonbridge has invested in nonprofit leadership programs and in first-generation college success programs at universities, nonprofits, and research institutions. Ellis, who most recently served as the Director of College Readiness and Community Outreach at the University of the District of Columbia Community College (UDC-CC), will lead the expansion of programming and grantmaking in these two areas.

In her most recent role at UDC-CC, Ellis provided leadership and direction for college readiness programming and managed the largest and most inclusive dual enrollment program in the District of Columbia, establishing partnerships with 45 DC public and charter high schools and adult education programs.

Prior to joining UDC-CC, she worked as the Early College Coordinator at Bell Multicultural High School, a District of Columbia Public School, where she managed the early college and early high school programs and taught a college seminar. Before moving to DC, Ellis was the College Persistence and Volunteer Coordinator at Breakthrough Austin where she also mentored teachers in an intensive summer program for middle school students, the first in their family to go to college.

“Robyn not only comes with exceptional experience, but a true passion for helping students succeed in college and beyond.” says Danielle M. Reyes, executive director of the Crimsonbridge Foundation.

A native of Texas, Ellis received her bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Texas at Austin and holds a master’s degree in Comparative Education from the Institute of Education at the University of London in England. She lives in DC with her partner and their two children.

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Crimsonbridge’s Danielle M. Reyes joins DC Bar Foundation Board of Directors

October 2019

The District of Columbia Bar Foundation has elected Danielle M. Reyes, executive director of the Crimsonbridge Foundation, as one of three new members to its Board of Directors. In joining the Foundation’s Board, these individuals demonstrate their commitment to ensuring that all District residents have a fair and equal legal experience.

For DC residents in poverty, the DC Bar Foundation makes strategic investments to strengthen and expand the civil legal aid network, addressing critical needs and improving our community. As the largest funder of civil legal aid in the District, it is a steadfast community partner, committed to protecting access to justice in life’s most pivotal moments.

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College Success Foundation - District of Columbia video

Feel the Hope. See the Change.

September 2019

Since 2006, the College Success Foundation – District of Columbia (CSF-DC) has worked to address the critically low college graduation rate (27%) of students from Washington, DC’s Wards 7 and 8. CSF-DC integrates a comprehensive system of academic, social, emotional, and financial services for its students, staying with them for up to 10 years and beyond. In this video from CSF-DC, a community partner in our College Completion Colleagues (C3) Initiative, hear the hopes and accomplishments of a few of its graduates.

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Making the College Dream Possible for Teen Parents

August 2019

The more than 1 in 5 college students who are parents face a unique set of challenges on their path to and through college. As a result, fewer than 2% of teen mothers nationally who have a child before age 18 go on to complete college before age 30. Generation Hope, a community partner in our College Completion Colleagues (C3) Initiative, provides mentoring, resources, and services to help D.C. area teen parents become college graduates and helps their children enter kindergarten at higher levels of school readiness. In the post, “How to Make the College Dream Possible,” Generation Hope shares opportunities for each of us to support this often overlooked group of college students.

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Anne Hundertmark

Exploration of the Social Sector

Anne Hundertmark August 2019

Anne Hundertmark is a rising senior at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, attending the Haub School of Business and majoring in Leadership, Ethics, and Organizational Sustainability with minors in English and Finance. She joined the Crimsonbridge Foundation as a Philanthropy Fellow this summer, working with staff on projects related to its programs and grantmaking in education, leadership, and capacity building. In the following post, Anne shares reflections from her fellowship and exploration of the social sector.

From a young age, my parents instilled in me the idea that, if I had the ability, it was my responsibility to serve others. In middle school, this meant joining the Community Service Club at recess to clean teachers’ blackboards and organize supplies. In high school, these responsibilities developed further as I was awarded the Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Ambassador Awards for service projects with the Girl Scouts. But it wasn’t until I entered college, when I began seeking work experience in the social sector, that I truly understood the power and impact of a community.

One of the reasons I chose to attend Saint Joseph’s University was because of its focus on serving others. I spent my freshman year as part of a Philadelphia service immersion program where I volunteered at a different site each week and learned from site leaders about the systematic barriers facing the Philadelphia community. That year, I applied to work as a Development Intern at Horton’s Kids, a nonprofit in Washington, DC that serves the children and families of Wellington Park. I worked at Horton’s Kids for two summers and witnessed the intensity of a nonprofit’s effort, strategy, and impact.

Working at Crimsonbridge Foundation has been an invaluable opportunity to explore another facet of the social/nonprofit sector. Having formerly worked at a nonprofit, I already understood the significance of a funder’s financial support. However, this summer, I witnessed the role a foundation can play as a resource, partner, and community member:

A Resource. Nonprofits oftentimes work directly with members of the community and are therefore well-equipped to understand the challenges faced by the people they serve. At Crimsonbridge, I learned that foundations are equipped to take on the role of devoting time and resources to researching and learning more about these systemic issues that exist in the community. This research allows foundations to develop an understanding of the broader landscape of needs so they can serve as a resource to nonprofits when providing program-specific grants.

A Partner. Crimsonbridge fosters connections within its network of nonprofits, leaders, and philanthropic organizations. As a partner, Crimsonbridge seeks to advance and strengthen networks so that changemakers can benefit from others’ experience. I found that Crimsonbridge embodied this especially through its leadership and partnership which supported establishment of the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal School.

A Community Member. When working at a nonprofit, I was immersed in the nonprofit’s daily operations, celebrations, and events. At Crimsonbridge, I discovered a different, but strong, connection between the foundation and its nonprofit partners. As a team, we celebrate their victories, learn from their experiences, and seek out opportunities to engage with the community.

Working as the Philanthropy Fellow at Crimsonbridge Foundation allowed me to deepen my understanding of the philanthropic world and develop workplace research, writing, and partnership skills. But more importantly, this fellowship allowed me to develop as a greater, more-informed member of the community. Regardless of whether my future leads to a career in philanthropy, I have appreciated the opportunity to learn how to better serve the community and act as an agent for social change.

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