Hiawatha Academies

Founded in 2007, Hiawatha Academies is a network of four college-preparatory schools, seeking to close the achievement gap by supporting students on a path to and through college. By nurturing students’ character and leadership potential in addition to equipping them with knowledge, they work to help young people build rich lives and become active, contributing members of society.

A few years ago, the state holdback made a significant impact on charter schools across Minnesota—and Hiawatha was no exception. They were seeking to open a new school, and needed working capital to help cover the deferred funding.  In partnership with a multitude of other organizations, Propel Nonprofits (formerly Nonprofits Assistance Fund) worked to develop a financing package that would allow Hiawatha to continue their trajectory of growth, and help them acquire new facilities.

“Propel Nonprofits was a close partner and lender on our Hiawatha Leadership Academy Northrup Elementary project in 2013, as well as our 2015 projects on the south side of the Northrup campus,” Hiawatha’s Chief Operating Officer Sean Elder told us. “But above and beyond the financing relationship, one of the things I really value about Propel Nonprofits, and Kate and Phil’s leadership, is that they have a deep sense of mission and purpose to the lending that they do. They serve both as trusted advisors and connectors to other community partners, as well as direct partners on lending.”

“One of many things I admire about Hiawatha Academies is their sustainable approach to growth,” said Propel Nonprofits’ Phil Hatlie. “They originally opened as kindergarten and first grade, and have added a grade every year.”

Thanks in part to their thoughtful approach to the growth of their network, as well as their robust philanthropic program and solid relationships with financial partners, Hiawatha is on a path towards becoming a five-school network. They will open their fifth school—their second middle school—in time for the 2018-2019 school year.

When he imagines the future of Hiawatha’s relationship with Propel Nonprofits, Sean looks forward to continued collaboration. “I can only see a deepening of the relationship we’ve been able to build over the years. That might include additional partnerships as we open new schools and have facilities needs—but also broader system-wide efforts that we’re working on across the city.”

Propel Nonprofits is honored to partner with Hiawatha Academies in their important work towards closing the achievement gap, and empowering young people to be successful in and beyond college. To learn more about Hiawatha’s important work in our communities, visit them online. 

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