Accepted into Camelback Ventures, a social impact fellowship for founders of color and women who are committed to change in their communities. A welcome and announcement letter from Camelback Founder & CEO, Aaron T. Walker: Four years ago, I had a meeting with a potential funder who told me I wouldn’t find any social entrepreneurs of color to invest in. He told me that there was a pipeline problem, that they “just weren’t out there.” This year, with 530 applicants to our Fellowship (triple the amount from last year), I can definitively tell you that he was wrong -- though we always knew that was the case, right? One of last year’s Fellows, Wisdom Amouzou, shared how hustling is ingrained into our communities, expressing the reality that for us, “hustle” isn’t just some nice startup catch phrase to put on a mug, but rather a mindset that permeates our work and our lives. One of the Finalists this year, Kimberly Diaz, recently wrote on EdPost, “How many of your tias or padres own their business? Sure, maybe they didn’t go through a design-thinking protocol with sticky notes and sharpies, but they once had a start-up!” Our recruitment and selection process was incredibly difficult for us this year. The phrase we said most often was, “If we could take 20…” We saw an amazing range of applicants from underrepresented communities. At each stage in the selection process, we debated for days (not an exaggeration), poured over essays, scores, and recounted interviews. We took more applicants at each stage than we ever have before, having a hard time saying no to anyone just yet. As a result, we’ve also grown the cohort numbers itself.
Meet the thirteen 2018 Camelback Fellows. We have four school founders here, individuals who are ready to dedicate the next chapter of their lives to opening an innovative institution that can change the lives of all those who enter its classrooms. We’re funding tech that’s pushing the envelope for voter empowerment, community safety, early childhood education, careers and generational wealth, and education research. We’re supporting founders who believe in power of the creative education and the arts, founders who emphasize the importance of equitable access in these fields. There are orgs that have created thoughtful programming to awaken new modes of thinking for youth and adults alike around civic engagement, immigration, and diversity in the workplace. I hope you enjoy reading the profiles of each Fellow below as much as I have.
Thank you to all applicants that shared their vision and themselves with us -- it has been our honor to get to know you. To our supporters, thank you for sending in recommendations, good wishes, and your enthusiasm. To our volunteer evaluators and interviewers, THANK YOU -- your time and expertise is always appreciated, and we couldn’t have done this without you. To my team: thank you for believing in this work and being willing to have hard conversations. And of course, to our 2018 Fellows: welcome to the family.
CAMELBACK FELLOW: JANINE GOMEZ, I DREAM PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL
ABOUT: Seats in schools of high demand do not exist in SE DC. Kids must travel across town to attend schools that engage in purposeful, self-directed work, with intentional focus on social emotional learning. I Dream PCS disrupts this inequity by increasing access to this type of learning in this community. What makes I Dream PCS unique is that we customize learning around each child's passions and curiosities. JANINE: "I'm deeply moved by this; thank you! Our team worked HARD to complete the Round 2 application! I'm proud of the fact that we articulated our vision for I Dream Public Charter School in a way that inspired Camelback to select our venture as a Fellow. I'm elated about joining the Camelback community and growing my skills as an entrepreneur at lightning speed. I'm ready for the challenge."