Candice Bataille’s experience leading after-school programs in her native Venezuela taught her how investing in children’s social and emotional learning could help them build resilience in even the most challenging circumstances. When she immigrated to the United States, she founded Glowmundo: an organization that supports young people across Colorado. With support from an NFF loan, Candice now dreams of helping thousands more kids “find their glow.”
“I was very blessed to have been adopted by an organization that provided me a lot of personal skills,” says Candice. “I was running afterschool programs at age 13.”
Reflecting on her upbringing in Caracas, Venezuela, Candice credits a local nonprofit with sparking her passion for mission-driven work. “I learned a lot [about] what volunteering means,” she goes on, “and that gave me a huge sense of social justice.”
That sense of justice would go on to inform Candice’s life path. She attained a degree in international studies with an emphasis on international development in Venezuela, then spent several years working for programs supporting children and youth development around the world. Ultimately, her path led her to Denver, Colorado, where she pursued a master’s degree in nonprofit management and founded Glowmundo.
Expanding access to social and emotional learning
Glowmundo’s mission is to build resilience and self-awareness among young people through self-esteem classes, teacher trainings, parent programs, and more. In 2022, Glowmundo served 1,300 children, parents, teachers, and caregivers, the vast majority of whom come from immigrant or refugee backgrounds. Candice expects that number to grow to at least 3,000 by the end of 2023.
As an immigrant herself, Candice personally relates to many of the goals of the families her organization serves. “One [goal] is that their children get educated with the hope that maybe their child might be the first one to go to college or get a better education for themselves,” she says. “[Another goal] is parents really pushing themselves to learn English or learn new skills so that they can use their strength to actually break through the poverty cycle.”
To help families achieve these goals, Glowmundo invests deeply in childrens’ social and emotional learning (SEL). Over a three-year period, Glowmundo works with children, parents, and teachers simultaneously to both reinforce children’s SEL skills and build a supportive environment where they can practice them. With children they focus on "Glow Thoughts" (optimistic thoughts) and "mind muck" (limiting thoughts) and build practices that help kids “find their glow" (inner strength).
“Through the skills that we provide the child, we start helping them see themselves as worth it,” says Candice. “It's almost like they start redesigning the way they talk to themselves.”
Acknowledging trauma, overcoming systemic barriers
For some of the children Glowmundo serves, immigration can be a source of trauma – whether from the process of crossing the border or the struggle to find their footing in a new country once they arrive.
“It's very easy for these children to have that trauma get in the way of them improving their reading, their math,” says Candice, “because they still have in the back of their mind whatever happened, and they start feeling like, ‘what's the point if I might be deported or if my parents might be deported?’”
But for Candice, the impact she sees in her work makes the struggle worth it. She recalls one instance in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, when an online class of eight- and nine-year-olds was struggling to stay focused.
“This one boy, who used to be the bully of the classroom when we first started working with them, he turned around to the other eight kids and said, ‘Hey, can you remember your glow?’ … Immediately it shifted everything,” Candice says. “They all started doing the breathing. The teacher was in tears because she was like, ‘I can't believe they [did it] themselves.’”
Candice’s own immigrant background made it challenging for her to build relationships with potential funders who she needed to support this critical work. Despite having an advanced degree, she says, finding funding has been a constant struggle. “When I open my mouth, it all dissolves because I have an accent, right?" she says.
“Finally,” she continues, “we broke through five years ago with The Denver Foundation, [who] started trusting us and believing in us ... because a person of color was in power.”
How access to finance is helping Glowmundo grow
With the expansion of its in-school programs and the addition of external programs, Glowmundo has more than tripled in size over the past year. However, since schools reimburse Glowmundo 60-90 days after it runs its programs, the organization needs to have cash on hand to maintain its operations while it awaits payment from the schools it serves.
Offered through NFF's Metro Denver Nonprofit Loan Fund, which supports the recovery and sustainability of the Denver area's nonprofit ecosystem, a loan from NFF is giving Glowmundo the working capital it needs to keep supporting its community (and paying its staff) while it waits for reimbursement.
Glowmundo recently acquired another nonprofit – and the school communities that they served. “We acquired their programing and their clients,” says Candice. “Now we have access to many more schools and a wider diversity of programming, which requires more personnel.” Working capital from NFF will fund the salaries of some of the new staff Glowmundo needs to expand and meet the growing demand from its community.
Gaining a loan, Candice says, helped her continue building the confidence that Glowmundo’s critical work could continue. And NFF’s consulting team is helping Glowmundo maximize that loan’s impact. "[That consultant] is moving us from surviving to thriving,” says Candice. “She gives us concrete things that we can do to improve our capacity to write grants, to just be in the community and build their confidence and … build the trust of community members.”
As schools and communities continue to recognize how an investment in SEL can support children’s development, they’ve requested Glowmundo’s services more and more. And the organization is determined to keep growing.
Certainly, Glowmundo would like to keep expanding to school districts across the country, says Candice. She adds that she would like to launch “... an online platform ... that anybody from anywhere, even from around the world, can access our trainings and gain those skills to then apply it in their own communities.”
No matter where young people live or where they come from, says Candice, “We want [them] to know that you can always ... make it to the other side of whatever is challenging you, or achieve whatever opportunity presents [itself] to you.”
NFF finances mission-driven organizations like Glowmundo across the United States. To learn more about how our financing can support your nonprofit, visit the Financing page of our website.