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Nathan Pai Schmitt

What are you leading?

I am the Cofounder and Executive Director of The HadaNou Collective. HNC exists to support students, parents, and communities to transform their schools to create a more equitable society.  We do this by finding community-driven leaders doing great work, supporting and developing those leaders to grow their work into a Center, and coordinating these HNC Centers to have a deep, system-level impact. HNC’s five Centers currently include makerspaces, writing centers, performing arts centers, and a farm/sustainability center. The commonality between the Centers is HNC’s Community Co-creation Process: working with the community to build great things, rather than trying to solve problems for communities.

How did your experiences as a fellow inspire or prepare you for what you’re doing now?

Teach for America has provided critical support to help us get where we are now. As a TFA Colorado corps member, the pathway into the classroom and instructional support and training helped me understand what was important to me as an educator through both positive and negative examples.

In 2017, we won the Teach for America Social Innovation Award. Beyond the financial support that this provided, relationships with the SIA team and judges have been incredibly important. Teach for America has a humblingly powerful network, and we have been very fortunate to be plugged into this network. This is true across areas of funding, programmatic partners, mentors, thought partners, and so on.

What's next?

HNC’s three year outcome is to become a pathway for community-driven leaders to build high quality, sustainable, equitable institutions. This means that we are building a pipeline of strong community-driven leaders towards becoming Center Directors, building our capacity to support and develop these leaders, and building our capacity to coordinate and amplify our Center Directors’ impact.

We believe that policy change happens because the people change conditions on the ground such that lawmakers are forced to change policies to reflect a new reality. Our focus is on changing these conditions on the ground through our community-driven leaders. We believe that the most powerful place to make this change is through transforming our educational institutions because they are the equity and liberation begin and end.

Alumni info

Alumni Cohort

2012

Current Home

Denver, Colorado, USA

Subject(s) Taught

Social Justice & Identity

Connect on Social Media

Leadership Journey

2012

Joined Teach for America teaching identity and social justice classes.

2012-2015

Met cofounder; began piloting early versions of Centers with students (outdoor education, technology, social justice, etc.)

2015

Kickstarter with students funded HackSchool, which became our first Center.

2015

Incorporated HNC and began building a team.

2016

Teach for All staff connected us to funders and a programmatic partner in the Obama White House.

2017

Won the Teach for America Social Innovation Award

2018

Attended Teach for All’s Social Innovator Global Gathering gained trajectory altering relationships and insight.

2015-2018

Nathan makes many mistakes and learns important lessons about leadership in a community-driven context.