Thursday, July 18, 2024

Greg Nadeau speaks Monday at a meeting of The Somerville Foundation in Union Square. At right is board member Saladin Islam. (Photo: Hui-En Lin)

With a name change in December, the Somerville Education Foundation is now The Somerville Foundation and looking toward next steps.

The group’s mission, values and future was discussed Monday at a Union Square meeting of the advisory board made up of activists and members of other local organizations.

The name change had been in the works for eight months, foundation president Greg Nadeau said. Through attending meetings of other education foundations, the group realized its goals and work aligned more with the work of the Cambridge Community Foundation and Boston Foundation than with the narrower focus suggested by the old name.

“Education foundations are typically in more suburban environments and typically rely heavily on the wealth and affluence of the families that attend the school to support supplemental enrichment within the schools,” Nadeau said after the meeting.

While that is part of what The Somerville Foundation does, students in Somerville have 10 times the poverty level of Arlington, he said, and require a different level of support compared with other areas.

The Somerville Fund meets Monday at Community Action Agency of Somerville offices in Union Square. (Photo: Hui-En Lin)

“The families that attend some of the public schools tend to have less resources to be tapped for fundraisers,” Nadeau said.

The advisory committee will direct “whatever funding and whatever things that we get from this foundation toward the efforts that we’re looking for as a community,” said board member Saladin Islam, who is also on the board of the urban farming nonprofit Groundwork Somerville.

According to Nadeau, the focus of the foundation continues to be on what he considers the most vulnerable residents of Somerville with the least services: 14- to 30-year-olds.

“They benefit from additional workplace-learning apprenticeships and other experiences, but we will continue to now expand across the range of demands and needs from basic needs to community wealth-building to cultural media,” he said.

Nadeau hopes the foundation will be the third leg of a stable platform: the city; the school district; and the community. Next steps include launching a website, drafting bylaws and operation procedures, fundraising and reaching out to Mayor Katjana Ballantyne to begin a collaboration.

At this stage of the foundation, Nadeau pointed to a high school internship program as something he is most excited for.

“I really love working directly with the young people of Somerville, providing them with immediate opportunities to contribute, and this group as they progress from high school into their post-high school years face tremendous challenges,” he said.

That group of people, he added, are “the critical solution” to many issues including elder care, child care and green tech.

“These folks graduating from our schools and progressing into their lives are the solution,” Nadeau said. “If we can help change this group from being the most vulnerable group in need of services to a tremendous asset for our community, that’s the thing that I’m most excited about.”

In addition to Nadeau and Islam, the board – mostly transferred over from membership on the the Somerville Education Foundation board – is Vladmir Benoit, Marian Berkowitz, Regina Carey, Mike Chiu, Adeleine Mannion, Wilbert Pineda, Barry Rafkind and Anne Tate.