Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
Teaching women and girls to be leaders is the goal of Dallas Women’s Foundation which recently awarded grants totaling $55,000 to two organizations that benefit Irving. Communities in Schools received $30,000 to help with a program called Girls Exploring Math and Science (GEMS), and Ignite, a group that introduces high school and college girls to the possibilities of a life in politics, received $25,000.
“These two programs really speak to what the Dallas Women’s Foundation is trying to do because part of our vision is that we want to unlock resources, financial and educational, to drive social and economic change in the community,” said Dr. Dena L. Jackson, DWF’s Vice President of Grants & Research. “One of the things we want to do is to develop women as leaders.
“We’ve been supporting Communities in Schools since 1989,” Jackson said. “We’ve funded them over $120,000. Ignite is a new organization in our city, and this is the first grant that they’ve received from us.”
Communities in Schools GEMS program focuses on middle school girls in six schools in Dallas, Collin and Denton Counties. In Irving, Bowie Middle School will benefit from the program to help open up career ideas for young middle school girls defined as at risk of not staying in school and of not achieving academically.
“By using hands-on, interactive activities, they are going to be introducing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) to them to get them ready for the school based programming that they need to pass,” Jackson said. “In order to go into college or any training program, math is a real gateway problem for a lot of kids
“This program is to help those girls, not only succeed in those stem fields, but to kind of open up career possibilities, so they see what else is out there for them to start aiming for when they get out of school. It’s a four-year program. It involves field trips and summer programs. They have been running it for a couple of years with very good success; this is an expansion of that program.”
Careers never before considered become real prospects for GEMS students.
“The CIS Dallas Region partnership with the Dallas Women’s Foundation will make a meaningful difference in the lives and futures of girls who, as a result, will be connected to and comfortable with science and technology in school and in the future,” said Sandra G. Chavarria, CISDR President & CEO.
Ignite focuses on leadership and career possibilities for young women in civic and political arenas.
“Ignite concentrates on high school girls, educating them on civics and politics, and providing them with skills and knowledge they need to assume leadership positions and to consider running for office in the future,” Jackson said. “The mechanism they use to support this education of high school girls is college girls. They give training, education, and leadership opportunities for both the college age kids as well as the high school girls that are actually receiving the services.
“Women are not well represented in elective office. Overall, we’re stuck countrywide at about 17 percent. Only 21 percent of our state legislature is female, and that puts us 35th in the nation as far as the number of women in public office in our state. Only nine percent of representatives in Washington D.C. are women.”
Girls participating in Ignite learn about and explore politics in a nonpartisan way.
“They are given a safe environment where they are able to learn from, share and interact with woman elected officials who are willing to share about their experience as women in office and give encouraging feedback to them,” said Sarah Davenport, Ignite Program Director.
Over the last 28 years, DWF has invested over $19 million in Dallas, Collin and Denton Counties for education and leadership, health and safety, and economic security of girls and women.
“(Communities in Schools and Ignite) are headed in the same direction to advance leadership and expand career possibilities for young women,” Jackson said. “We want to make a change in the community. We see it as an investment in programming, an investment in policy change, and an investment in having the community get more involved. If we can invest our money that way, what we will get on the other side is a stronger economic community and women and girls who are stronger participants in our society.
“Hillary Clinton talks about that if you invest in a woman, you invest in a family, and if you invest in a family, you invest in a community. It is the ripple effect that we have talked about for many years.”
“Other programs that we support also serve Irving but are not actually located in Irving such as Junior Achievement and The Concilio, a program that specifically focuses on leadership, predominately of Hispanic parents of children K-12.”
The Concilio also supports other immigrant groups.
“The program offers a 15-week class to parents of kindergarteners. They learn how to stand up for their child, how to interact with the school, how they can serve on PTA’s, and what the role of the parent is within the school system because it is very different in some of the countries where these parents come from. They separate classes for parents of elementary school kids, middle school and high school,” Jackson said.
Future grant opportunities
With more need than there is money, DWF is able to fund about 25 percent of grant requests, according to Jackson.
“Sometimes the foundation funds a specific project; sometimes we provide operating support for organizations that …that need general money to strengthen their organization,” she said. “Half of the beneficiaries have to be in Dallas, Denton or Collin County, and at least 75 percent of the beneficiaries have to be women or girls.”
The deadline for DWF’s next grant request is Jan. 16. This grant is open to organizations focused on the economic security of female headed households.
“This will be at least a nine-year initiative for us, because what we are going to look at is what the issues are at different times in a woman’s life that makes her more likely to become financially unstable,” Jackson said. “We have divided this up by age (brackets), so the one you see online is specifically for women that are 55 plus.
“A female headed household is a government IRS type definition. It could be a single mom with children, a household with a man but with a woman considered the head of household, or it could be just a single woman. It could be a woman who is a caregiver to her husband or parents.”
With 28 years of experience, the Dallas Women’s Foundation is one of the older women’s funds in the world.
“We are the largest regional women’s foundation in the world with regard to asset size,” Jackson said. “We strictly provide funds to 501c3 organizations. The vast majority of our money goes to Dallas, Collin and Denton Counties, but our donor advised funds can direct their money to anywhere in the world that they wish. About 15 percent of our monies go outside these three counties. The reason people support our organization is because they care about women and girls and they want to support this region.”
“You can give wherever you are. Time, talent and treasure are greatly appreciated. Speaking as a volunteer and a donor, we get so much out of it as well; it makes our lives so much richer.”
Jackson was a donor/volunteer for DWF before she came on staff in February 2012.
To apply for a grant or to learn about upcoming events presented by DWF go to their website at www.dallaswomensfoundation.org.
Free Philanthropy Education Workshop - The Power of Your Giving – Time, Treasure and Talent, Jan. 31, 4-6 p.m. at Dallas Women’s Foundation offices at Campbell Centre II, 8150 North Central Expressway, Suite #110, Dallas, Texas 75206, Phone: 214.965.9977. The workshop strives to help women of all economic levels understand the value of their time, talent, and treasure and how they can have an impact on the community too. It’s not just for women with a lot of money.
Two screenings of Miss Representation at Studio Movie Grill Spring Valley, Feb. 5 at 6:30 p.m. (Focused on men and their daughters); and Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m. (Youth/Family focus). Attendance is free, but reservations are required.
Gender in Media Forum and Luncheon, Feb. 8, DoubleTree by Hilton Dallas in Campbell Centrer, Forum: 9:00 – 11:45 a.m. Tickets $35 (Students $20), Luncheon: Noon - 1:30 p.m. Tickets $65 (Students $30). The Gender in Media Forum will talk about ways girls, children and women view themselves and their role in the world and will feature morning keynote speaker Madeline di Nonno, executive director of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and two panel discussions led by Krys Boyd, host of Think on KERA. A luncheon will follow the panel discussions, featuring keynote speaker Julie Burton, president of Women’s Media Center. Seating is limited.
“When people understand what is going on, they make different decisions with their children and different decisions with their philanthropy,” Jackson said.