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5 Questions with Stu: Dr. Christine Cannon, Executive Director, Arsht-Cannon Fund

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Dr. Christine Cannon has been the executive director of the Arsht-Cannon Fund since its inception in 2004. With careers in nursing and education, nonprofit board leadership, and experience in grantwriting and program development, Christine partners with grantees to achieve the most effective program outcomes and impacts — with a particular focus on Delaware’s Latino community.  Through the inspiration of the Arsht-Cannon Fund (a component fund at the DCF), the DCF overall has increased its attention on these issues as well.

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Why is philanthropy important to me?

For me, philanthropy provides a powerful opportunity to change the lives of Delaware’s Latino families through close partnerships with community leaders, nonprofits, educators, and healthcare providers. At the Arsht-Cannon Fund, our grants fuel a variety of educational opportunities that drive English language acquisition, family literacy, early childhood preparation for kindergarten, year-round learning for English Learners in K-12, college access and graduation, career development, equity-focused educational advocacy and more.

What are the greatest factors influencing your decisions when you consider opportunities you could support?

The greatest factors influencing my funding recommendations include:
(1) Justification of the need for a program
(2) The nonprofit’s capacity to implement a bilingual or bi-cultural program, and to access, engage, recruit and retain Latino participants
(3) Evidence of collaboration between nonprofit partners and the Latino community
(4) The use of data/research-based evidence to develop and monitor the program
(5) Most importantly, the impact of the program

What community endeavors are you proudest to support or engage in?

While I am proud of our 11-year-history of supporting family literacy programs that provide educational support for children while their immigrant parents learn English, I am also proud to advocate for English Learners (ELs). I am a member of the Steering Committee of Education Equity Delaware, which currently advocates for an equitable student funding formula. Involvement with a group of EL advocates, including the Rodel Foundation, resulted in a series of five infographic English Learner Fact Sheets, including Spanish-language versions. The fact sheet series won first place prizes at the Delaware Press Association’s Annual Communications Contest, and at the 2019 National Federation of Press Women’s Annual Communications Contest.

Finally, I am proud to be engaged with a Sussex County-wide collaboration among more than 50 nonprofits who want to grow their capacity to engage with and serve Latino families. Called La Colectiva de Delaware, pilot programs are developing approaches to resource navigation, literacy, youth mentorship, and workforce preparation.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned through your work in philanthropy?

I have learned the value of investing time in developing partnerships with, and between, grantees. There is so much to learn from each other, including members of our Latino communities. Latinos engaged in identifying issues important to them are more likely to be involved in developing long-term approaches. Building understanding, trust, and collaboration results in new opportunities and collective impact.

If you could do one thing to increase equity in Delaware, what would you do?

Equity would increase if we could educate more Delawareans about our Latino youth and families. Increasing awareness and understanding of Latino culture and communities within our state – such as those illustrated in the English Learner Fact Sheets – can lead to actions that increase equity. Education Equity Delaware provides opportunities to learn how to advocate for children (K-12) who are English learners, have disabilities, or who are from low-income families. I also believe a continuation of the Delaware Community Foundation’s Book Circles with an additional focus on opportunity gaps may bring people together to discuss new approaches.

There are many ways to learn more about Delaware’s Latino population. The 2009 Delaware Hispanic Needs Assessment (partially funded by the Arsht-Cannon Fund) helped funders, community leaders and nonprofits focus their work. Results from a 2019 DCF study of Latino families in Sussex County are due to be released in the fall. These results will help shape La Colectiva’s work.

But ultimately, the best way to learn is by creating one-on-one connections with our neighbors

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About 5Qs: Each month, we ask local philanthropic leaders to answer five questions about how they view philanthropy in their work, their lives, or their organizations. It’s a chance to hear from people we all know, and some you may not know – but in a different way.