See Kids Dream cultivates advocates to maximize its resources, impact

“Over and over, we kept hearing from teachers that the main issue for them was really the challenge of time,” she says.

The teachers were concerned about having less time to teach because of testing, or having less planning time before or after school because they had to compile and assess more student data.

Adverting a challenge

See Kids Dreams’ main program is Penny Harvest, which is usually run with a group of student leaders during lunch or after school.

With input from educators, however, the nonprofit decided to create a new model called Community Lab. This program still has students running the project, but extra academic lessons and curriculum are wrapped into it.

Students might learn techniques for conducting research and taking notes as they research their community issues, and then later use that research to write an informative or persuasive paper, Grindle says.

“That was a big shift in our perception of how we could deliver a program,” she says. “The really great thing is not only does that help us to avert a potential serious challenge for See Kids Dream to deliver on its mission — by having some of our programs dropped because of the time crunch for teachers — it actually enabled our growth.”

Schools can choose to utilize either program, which is why the number of engaged student leaders has grown from 600 to 1,500 in four years. It also created enough groundswell that See Kids Dream has expanded from elementary to middle schools.

On a level playing field

To maintain healthy partnerships, Grindle says you can’t put yourself above your partner as the only expert.

“We came in saying, ‘This is what we have. This is what we see its value is. What do you see?’” she says.

See Kids Dream meets with the teachers who run its programs at least twice a year. At first, educators think the nonprofit is there to check up on them, but then they realize that See Kids Dream is there to not just gather feedback for its purposes but to gather feedback that is going to help them, Grindle says.

“We found that’s critical — showing up and offering help when you see that it’s needed,” she says. “It opens the door to them becoming your advocates because they know you’re seeking their success, just as much as you’re seeking your own. And that’s truly the definition of a partnership.”