Press & Media

LEANLAB awards $50K in seed grants to 19 Black and Latinx innovators in education

By: Startland News Staff–   August 28, 2020

Entrepreneurs should reflect the communities they serve, said Katie Boody — a charge even more critical when innovative work touches Kansas City’s diverse public school systems, she added.

LEANLAB Education team

“I know firsthand how challenging launching a startup can be for anyone, and especially for founders of color,” said Boody, co-founder and CEO of LEANLAB Education, announcing the first recipients of the non-profit’s $50,000 Micro-Grant Support Fund. “All the entrepreneurs we support do this work because of a desire to improve the way we educate all students. This fund supports the next generation of founders who want to develop innovations and non-profits from the big ideas they’ve created in their own classrooms and communities.”

The initiative awarded grants of up to $5,000 to 19 Black and Latinx innovators — either alumni of LEANLAB’s K12 Fellowship (cohorts 1 through 6) or Kansas City-based ventures — who are working toward a better education for Kansas City children, according to LEANLAB. Eighty-nine percent of the selected entrepreneurs are local.

Click here to read more about LEANLAB’s plan to boost its K12 Fellowship with $2 million in new Chan Zuckerberg and Gates Foundation grants.

Micro-grant recipients were selected based on their commitment to increasing access to quality learning opportunities in alignment with LEANLAB’s core values — boldness, human-centered design and equity, Boody said.

Clint Velazquez, Base Academy of Music (BAM)

Innovation-led recipients likely familiar to Startland News readers include BAMHealthy Hip Hopthe Latinx Education CollaborativePennezPlaBookUrban TEC and We Code KC.

Click here to learn more about LEANLAB Education.

“We know that it has been a tough time for organizations and ventures making it through the logistical and health burdens of COVID-19 as well as the emotional and psychological burdens of ongoing efforts to achieve racial justice,” said Rohan Pidaparti, manager of innovation programs for LEANLAB. “Our conversations with alumni and local entrepreneurs reveal an immediate need for financial support, with 83 percent of surveyed entrepreneurs describing a financial need to continue operating through this school year.”

Black entrepreneurs, on-average, start businesses with 67 percent less in capital than white entrepreneurs, according to LEANLAB; and on top of that, this pandemic has hit black and Latinx business the hardest. From February to April, 41 percent of black and 32 percent of Latinx-owned businesses closed, while only 17 percent of white-owned businesses closed.

Rebecca Dove, Pennez

The full list of recipients of the Micro-Grant Support Fund, made possible by gifts from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, includes: 

  • aSTEAM Village, William Wells (Kansas City) — Cradle-to-career STEM/STEaM education programming with a targeted focus on addressing the mismatch between supply and demand for 21st Century digital skills. ($2,500)
  • BAM, Clint Velazquez (Kansas City, alumni) — BAM’s private lessons combine the benefits of a mentor relationship with music education to create an environment where students feel safe to grow and develop life skills. ($5,000)
  • BLOC, Cornell Ellis (Kansas City) — Brothers Liberating Our Communities aims to sustain and ultimately retain black men in schools. ($2,500)
  • Diversity Talks, Kiara Butler (Providence, Rhode Island, alumni) — Increases the cultural competence of educators by providing youth-led professional development grounded in diversity equity and inclusion. ($1,000)
  • Elements of Education KC, Catina Taylor (Kansas City, alumni) — Provides a network of support and a safe space for black female education professionals to express issues with the system while offering healthy solutions. ($2,500)
  • Generation Prodigy, LaTonya Stephens (Kansas City) — Closes the gap in educational matriculation between low-income and wealthy students by providing programs that increase school attendance and critical thinking skills. ($5,000)
  • Healthy Hip Hop, Roy Scott (Kansas City, alumni) — EdTech platform combining education, cutting-edge technology and positive attributes within the hip-hop culture to improve learning environments, focus and engagement. ($2,500)
  • Hold Em Up 4 Care, Tiffany Price (Kansas City) — Free measuring, fitting, and bra donations for young Kansas City women. ($1,000)
  • Inspired Aesthetics, Cescily Phillips (Kansas City) — After school program for grades 9-12 that provides access to safe top-quality, year-round arts education and training, mentoring, and academic support. ($2,500)
  • Jathen Corporation, JC Gibbs (Kansas City) — Tech solutions pre-loaded with resources for homeless and at-risk youth in Kansas City. ($1,000)
  • KCMO Memorial Scholarship, Susanna Elizarraraz (Kansas City) — The KCMO Memorial Scholarship scholarship will offer siblings of the victims of gun violence hope through access to post-secondary education and beyond. ($3,000)
  • LEC, Edgar Palacios (Kansas City, alumni) — The Latinx Education Collaborative works to increase the representation of Latinx US education professionals in K-12. ($2,500)
  • Pennez, Rebecca Dove (Kansas City) — Pennez utilizes Machine Learning to help youth to become better readers. ($1,500)
  • PlaBook, Philip Hickman (Kansas City) — Innovative reading technology that uses artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and speech recognition to help children learn to read. ($2,500)
  • Sankofa Leadership Institute, David Muhammad (Kansas City)  — Sankofa Leadership Initiative works to use martial arts as a form of access to leadership for youth from a diverse set of communities. ($2,500)
  • Teachers Like Me, Dr. Trinity Davis (Kansas City) — Organization dedicated to recruiting, developing, and retaining Black teachers in the Kansas City area. ($2,500)
  • Urban TEC, Ina Montgomery (Kansas City) — Delivers Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics programs to teachers and students that will engage students with their teachers’ lessons and opportunities in the field. ($5,000)
  • WeCode KC, Tammy Buckner (Kansas City) — Prepares underserved youth in urban communities with the skills to become full-stack software developers, web developers, computer programmers, and project managers. ($2,500)
  • Words Liive, Sage Salvo (Washington D.C., alumni) — Words Liive systemically integrates the music their students love, via song lyrics, into their reading and writing assignments to prepare engaging and effective literacy lessons. ($2,500)