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Connie Alexander

Co-Founder & Co-Executive Director | Gateway Educational Services

Courage to Lead Participant

Connie comes from a long line of activist women, devoted to the idea that if you see something wrong, you must try to fix it. As a child of San Francisco in the 70s, Connie explained “there was a lot going on: Women’s rights, the Black Power Movement, emergence of the LGBTQ community. That was all around me, and my parents were very engaged.” While her mother was a Teamster and a union organizer, her Father was an Activist and Pastor: “I spent part of my childhood making picketing signs.” 

As an advocate for education and youth, Connie explained, “My parents would always tell me your education is one thing no one can ever take from you.” 

As an avid reader in her youth, Connie became a voracious listener in her work. In the early stages, she and Co-founder Audrey Gamble thought they would focus only on education assessments and tutoring. “Students stayed with us, and we really got to know them,” Connie explained. “We began to see the needs of our families. Food insecurity; housing insecurity; with all that on top of the family, of course children are struggling.” Not only does Gateway Educational Services help children with their education, but it really bridges the gap between home life and education. 

During Covid and distance learning, Connie observes a new challenge. “Our introverts are thriving. Our extraverts are struggling. They need more social engagement…We’re asking schools to carry a part of our social sector they were not designed to carry. That’s why our nonprofit sector is even more important now.” 

Getting kids on track requires commitment and accountability. “As Audrey, my Co-Founder always says, ‘We don’t have magic wands; just pencils.’” Connie went on to explain her and Audrey’s journey, “It’s taken a lot of courage for two black women to step out and do this. We want children to have what we didn’t have, and we want children to have what we did have.” 

Connie’s Courage to Lead cohort had recently begun when Covid hit. Collectively, participants and facilitators decided to pause their program until it is safe to reconvene for in-person gatherings. However, Connie explains “I still meet with my leader circle regularly; I love my small group. We went virtual right away, and that’s a couple of hours every month when I get to unpack some stuff. I also do Wednesday meditation with Ed (Leading From Within).” 


“When you give up hope, the darkness wins. My ancestors had hope. I have a legacy and a responsibility to uphold that hope.” 


After the death of George Floyd, Connie approached Leading From Within to host a conversation about race. She and James Joyce III (recognized for “Coffee With A Black Guy”) led the discussion with nonprofit and community leaders. Among other connections, the event inspired a series of race-themed conversations. 

“We live very segregated lives, and we’re not honest about it. I think it’s important to have that conversation. On one hand, the nonprofit sector collaborates and communicates well, but there’s a disparity there, too.” Connie’s activist impulses kicked in when putting together a virtual gathering of nonprofit leaders of color, “just to get together and say, ‘how are you doing?’” They check in with one another and discuss things that are not often talked about in large gatherings, such as the challenge of access to funding. 

Facing each challenge as it comes, Gateway boasts an enviable record, having sent nearly seventy underrepresented children to college. “Our college readiness program is definitely a shining star and we are very proud. We started this journey in a little room with a couple of tables and chairs and a few families ready to start the journey with us. Those families knew their kids were in a safe place and trusted us that their kids were going to do well,” says Connie. 

“When you give up hope, the darkness wins. My ancestors had hope. I have a legacy and a responsibility to uphold that hope.” 

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