Meet Nichole Aston, Program Manager for the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation’s Pathways to Prosperity portfolio. In this role, she manages a portfolio of investments that ensure the safety, well-being, and resiliency of vulnerable children and families impacted by trauma, abuse, neglect, or mental health issues.
Nichole joined the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation in 2003 after working in a variety of marketing and project management roles at Dell Technologies and Trimble Navigation. Nichole had always envisioned working with nonprofits and has been deeply inspired by those who work closely with vulnerable children. She has played a critical role in the growth and direction of the Dell Foundation’s family stability efforts, which seek to improve academic, social, and emotional outcomes for children and young adults in the child welfare space.
Seeking to accelerate human opportunity, the Dell Foundation takes a data-informed approach toward its mission of transforming the lives of children living in urban poverty through improved education, health, and family economic stability. Established by Michael and Susan Dell in 1999, operations are headquartered in Austin, Texas, with offices in India and South Africa.
As part Nichole’s work with the Dell Foundation, she is focused on broader systems level initiatives. Components of this work include efforts to ensure that fewer families become part of the child welfare system, as well as supports for nonprofit leaders to strengthen existing programs and advocate around trauma-based needs. Since 2013, Nichole has served on the steering committee for the Travis County Collaborative for Children that provides trauma-informed training and caregiving to foster families, direct care providers, and other professionals. Additionally, she serves on the planning team for the Community Based Care readiness work for DFPS Region 7.
Nichole shared that the Central Texas trauma-informed efforts not only serve as a model for other communities around the world, but they have been a game changer in building a large network of caregivers and individuals that are improving outcomes for children. As a result, we see children spending less time in foster care, having fewer placements, and having the opportunity to heal from past traumas. “It is amazing to see both individual success stories and broad level community improvements,” Nichole explained.
The Dell Foundation was instrumental in supporting our efforts to evaluate how foster care is funded in Texas and improve the methodology in ways that reflect the state’s goals and meets the changing needs and expectations of the child welfare system. Today, we are grateful for their ongoing support through our consulting and technical assistance services aimed at improving or sustaining organizational performance, offering programming around program evaluation and/or identifying best practices, and supporting a healthy and adequately-trained workforce of child welfare professionals.
Since the pandemic hit last March 2020, the Dell Foundation has committed $100 million in support of COVID-19 relief efforts globally, with a focus on health, education, nonprofits, social enterprises, small businesses, and livelihoods of citizens such as microentrepreneurs and gig workers. In health, there has been support for health care systems, PPE, and investments in the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
We are honored to have the opportunity to share more about Nichole and her work at the Dell Foundation! TACFS and many of our members really enjoy working with Nichole – she’s a smart and caring partner. To learn more about Central Texas grant projects at the Dell Foundation, visit their website.