2020 Nonprofit Professional of the Year: Nikole Collins-Puri
Nikole Collins-Puri is a fierce collaborator and a staunch advocate for leveling the playing field for girls from underserved communities. Her fearless leadership of a strong, diverse coalition of supporters is attributed to her ability to optimize and bring together strengths and engage others to influence large-scale impact within the community.
For nearly four years, Nikole has been shaping the vision and blazing new trails for Techbridge Girls as it continues to champion equity in education and fair access to economic opportunity for all girls — a world where all girls lead, contribute and thrive in science, technology, engineering and math. She is forging a path for young girls with limited access to rigorous math and science courses, and enrichment programs that offer new possibilities in STEM and access to a support system that encourages dreams and aspirations.
Nikole successfully navigated the nonprofit’s turnaround, restructuring the organization from a time in which it was operating at a deficit after losing $1 million in long-term funding, while Techbridge Girls now operates with a surplus of funding.
Under Nikole’s leadership, Techbridge Girls secured its largest gift in the organization’s history: $1 million (unrestricted). She assembled a dynamic and diverse national Techbridge Girls board with executives from Boeing, Chevron, Oracle, Box.com, Facebook and UL, to name a few.
In 2019, Nikole navigated the strategic partnership and acquisition of assets from Expanding Your Horizons, a stalwart events and education provider operating in more than 40 states and three countries, in order to accelerate Techbridge Girls’ vision to serve one million girls by 2030. As a result, the total number of Techbridge Girls jumped from 1,000 to 25,000 girls annually across the country.
Leveraging her background and career, including nearly a decade as a technologist working for AT&T in a variety of roles, Nikole applies the knowledge she has gleaned to foster a network of gratitude and compassion within her community. She raised the visibility of Techbridge Girls by spearheading national partnerships with Grammarly, Chevron, Best Buy (Nikole is featured in the current International Women’s Day campaign), GiveWith and XM Sirius Radio.
This year, Techbridge Girls celebrates its 20th anniversary. Way back before Silicon Valley was chic, Techbridge Girls launched in 2000 at the Chabot Space & Science Center, making the nonprofit the longest running SF Bay Area-based national STEM for girls organization. In the current environment, too many underprivileged girls are locked out of STEM opportunities. As such, they have to work twice as hard to get half as far. Nikole represents a new perception of women leaders, advocates and elevates the voices of the voiceless by providing critical resources to this demographic in America and focuses on forging a path toward economic mobility for young girls.
Unsurprisingly, girls from low-income communities lag in STEM careers, while their peers from middle-class or affluent households are consistently exposed to early learning, afterschool and summer learning programs. Techbridge Girls’ out-of-school programming serves as a learning lab that ensures girls from low-income communities stay at the center of the organization’s practice and provides a blueprint for their educator training and curriculum. Each semester, girls work on community impact projects that foster innovative thinking and provide solutions to a wide-range of problems from protecting the environment to combating racist perceptions.
Nikole is a master collaborator, able to leverage her rich professional experiences in tech, philanthropy and education to bring diverse groups of stakeholders together to urge social change in our communities. In her recent TEDx talk on reimagining the STEM revolution for every girl, she talks about her commitment to removing barriers and increasing access and opportunities for all those who are often left behind, but essential to the success and growth of our society.
Honored in 2018 for her community involvement as a Golden State Warriors Community Playmaker, Nikole started mentoring when she was a teenager and has not stopped ever since. Nikole credits her own mentors for her personal and professional success, but says that her community work is “not only about giving back; it’s also about lifting up.” For nearly a decade, Nikole has been lifting up young Bay-Area girls by connecting them to resources, networks and opportunities they need to realize their greatest potential.
In addition, Nikole was a member of the City of Oakland, Budget Advisory Committee Member, and she served as a board member of the San Francisco Education Fund and a mentor to young African-American girls in the Berkeley-Bay Area Delta Sigma Theta Sorority GEMS Program.