A Bridge to the Future

By Meredith Olson, VELA Education Fund President

I am excited to write to mark the launch of Meet the Moment 2.0, the VELA Education Fund’s second round of investment in everyday entrepreneurs. As of this week, we are officially accepting applications from individuals and local organizations who are using their talents to create their own ventures and meet learners’ and families’ needs. 

VELA was launched in August 2020 through a commitment to invest in new and unconventional approaches to education that better reflect families and communities. We wanted to support opportunities that offer flexibility for students to explore their interests. 

I recently had the opportunity to meet with one of our first grantees, Green Gate Children’s School, a nature-based microschool in Wichita, Kansas, that gets students away from their desks and into outdoor, nature-inspired classrooms. 

Self-described everyday entrepreneurs, Katie and Stan Saiz are Green Gate’s founders. They rose to the challenge of filling the gap between public, private, and homeschool options when their children were preschool age. They developed a nature-based education model that uses hands-on, outdoor play and everyday life experiences as the basis for teaching the whole child. 

These are the types of education innovators who are stepping in, learning from and leaning on each other, and re-imagining education together. They are pursuing a different set of values and priorities – and they are doing it freely, with little to no oversight from traditional systems. 

While the pandemic has certainly accelerated innovation at a pace that none of us could have expected, it turns out the seeds were already there. And this, in fact, is the brilliance and beauty of what we’ve observed in the VELA community of grantees. We’ve had a chance to peek behind the curtain and learn about what’s happening in the homes and communities of VELA grantees nationwide. 

VELA’s first fund, called Meet the Moment 1.0, leveraged six partner organizations to award more than $2.5 million, ultimately supporting 450 grants and microgrants and impacting 250,000 people in 43 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.  

Our approach to grantmaking — embrace risk, make grants quickly, and trust people and communities to drive investments — yielded a portfolio that is unique in its diversity of programs and in its geographic footprint.

As we prepare to issue an additional $5 million through Meet the Moment 2.0,  we don’t see the investment as a Band-Aid during the pandemic. We see it as a bridge to the future.

At VELA we are impressed by the ideas that are catching fire, by the humanity that everyday entrepreneurs are bringing back to education, and we are committed to sustaining and expanding this movement going forward.  

We hope you’ll join us.