Proximity Accelerator

Empowering promising, early-stage entrepreneur to pursue impact at scale

The Proximity Accelerator was launched in 2016 to address the severe lack of diversity in leadership in the nonprofit sector. In today’s workforce, people of color (African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans) make up less than one-fifth of executive director positions in the sector, and reports indicate that this number has not changed over the last 10 years, even as the populations have grown. Increasing the number of social entrepreneurs and social sector leaders who come from, and look like the communities they serve will strengthen their efforts and their impact.

First Cohort

Sandra Gutierrez
Founder & National Director, Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors
Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors supports parents in their role as family leaders and as their child’s first and most influential teacher in a home that is their child’s first school. Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors’ two-generation approach builds parent leadership skills and knowledge to promote family well-being and positive education outcomes for children.
Hiewet Senghor
Founder & CEO, The Black Teacher Collaborative
BTC’s mission is to engage, develop, and support an intergenerational collective of Black educators, who will ensure that Black children achieve at high levels academically; while simultaneously preparing them with the intellectual, social, emotional, and cultural capital to actively participate in the ongoing advancement of their communities.
Aaron Walker
Founder & CEO, Camelback Ventures
Camelback Ventures aims to address the inequities of entrepreneurship by providing coaching, capital, and connections to underrepresented entrepreneurs. We work with our social impact innovators through our Fellowship with the ultimate goal of creating great schools and prosperous, livable communities for all families.
Jamilah Prince-Stewart
Executive Director, FaithActs for Education
FaithActs for Education is a grassroots community organizing nonprofit based in Bridgeport, Connecticut. We are people of faith building power to get our children the education they deserve.
Diego Arambula
Executive Director, GO Public Schools
GO Public Schools builds and supports a multi-city network of local coalitions, whose members — parents, educators, and community allies — work together to expand access to quality education in California’s most historically underserved communities.
Monalisa Smith
Founder, President & CEO, Mothers for Justice and Equality
The mission of MJE is to end neighborhood violence by empowering mothers and youth to challenge the normalization of violence and become effective catalysts for change in their homes, schools, and communities. By reclaiming the identity of our communities we restore a sense of hope and purpose for children, youth, and adults.
Veronica Palmer
Co-Founder & CEO, RISE Colorado
RISE Colorado works to Educate, Engage, and Empower low-income families and families of color to RISE as change agents for educational equity in our public school system.
Carmita Semaan
Founder & President, Surge Institute
Surge Institute’s mission is to educate and develop leaders of color who create transformative change in urban education.

Second Cohort

Reyna Montoya
Founder & Executive Director, Aliento
Aliento is a community organization that is undocumented and youth-led. We are directly impacted people and allies who are invested in the well being, emotional healing, and leadership development of those impacted by the inequalities of lacking an immigration status.
Ashley Edwards
Co-Founder & CEO, MindRight
MindRight is a tech nonprofit with the mission of empowering youth of color to heal from trauma from systemic oppression through mental health coaching over text message. Through MindRight, trauma-informed coaches communicate with students proactively 365 days/year to support their social emotional health. Licensed mental health professionals supervise the coaches and are on call in crises. MindRight reports real-time data on student emotional well-being to partners to drive systems-level change for schools and cities.
Allen Woods
Managing Partner & Creative Director, MORTAR
MORTAR was created to bridge the gap between untapped entrepreneurs and a city on the rise. We exist to ensure that all entrepreneurs and small businesses - regardless of socioeconomic status, gender, race, or background, have an opportunity to participate in the rejuvenation of our city. Our hope is that our approach will create a local economy where entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and colors can not only participate, but also transfer economic opportunity and ownership to future generations. We’re seeing from the success of our graduates that there are entrepreneurs - male and female - throughout our region with great ideas who need resources and training to create vibrant businesses, sustainable jobs and stable households - and when these resources are available, great things can happen.
Mary Moran
Co-Founder & Executive Director, Our Voice Nuestra Voz
Our Voice Nuestra Voz (OVNV) organizes parents to increase educational outcomes and equity for students in New Orleans and Louisiana. From working car lines to conducting parent one-on-one meetings, they set out to build authentic relationships in communities, learn about the obstacles they face, and devise solutions to provide a better education for all students. At OVNV, they do not set an agenda that parents adopt. Instead, their Parent Leaders set their own agenda for their communities, students, and schools.
Maya Martin
Founder & Executive Director, PAVE
PAVE connects, informs, and empowers parent leaders to give families in DC a voice and choice in the vision for education in our city. Founded in April 2016 with an all-parent governing board, PAVE is dedicated to creating an environment where the vision for education in DC is created with children and families, not for them. We aim to shift the dynamic so that communities and parents are partners in creating great schools.
Yannell Selman
Executive Director, P.S. 305
P.S. 305 is building a movement of parents, teachers, students, and community members that are demanding great schools for all children in the nation's 4th largest school district: Miami-Dade. Our vision is for every child in Miami-Dade County to receive a high quality education. We achieve that by informing, organizing, and empowering leaders that advocate for a rigorous system of high quality schools. P.S. 305 follows the PICO organizing model, building teams of parent leaders in multiple communities across Greater Miami. These teams work as a federation on issue campaigns that improve Miami's education system. Founded in 2017, P.S. 305 is Miami-Dade's first and only education advocacy organization.
Christine Ortiz
Founder, Station1
Station1 is a nonprofit educational institution that is based on a new model of higher education — one that is built on a foundation of inclusion and equity, learning through frontier project-based inquiry and research, and the integration of science and technology with societal perspective and impact. Station1 creates and implements transformative education, research, and internship programs that educate a diverse range of students and fosters academic success, meaningful careers, and lifelong learning in our changing world.
Sixto Cancel
Founder & CEO, Think of Us
Think of Us is a tech non-profit that specializes in defining, designing and deploying technology initiatives in the social sector. Our mission is to leverage innovative technology to improve the lives of youth in foster care.