DALLAS – Growing up in South Dakota, Jayda Batchelder was an avid basketball player and fan. However, her home state didn’t have a professional basketball team and she missed the sense of comradery and the joy that comes from a community rallying a sports team.
Then in 2009, Batchelder moved to Dallas and the timing was perfect because two years later she witnessed Dallas Mavericks history.
“My dad drove to Dallas all the way from South Dakota to go with me to the semifinals game against the Lakers,” Batchelder recalled. “I remember standing outside the stadium decked out in Mavs gear and with a broom in hand as we cheered for a sweep!”
Batchelder’s journey to create and launch a North Texas-based organization called Education Opens Doors is nothing short of remarkable. She was the first person in her family to attend college and attended Tulane University in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina sliced through the city. It was in those critical years that followed, some of the hardest periods of her life, where Batchelder’s life purpose and destiny was bloomed. She had an up-close personal view of the long-standing inequities that rocked the city and realized that, as a society, we have a duty to give our future “equal access to education, opportunities and resources.”
The quest to provide equal education opportunities for students is how Batchelder found her way to Dallas. She joined Teach For America and became an eighth grade science teacher in the heart of Oak Cliff during a particular grade level that state testing is critical for students. Her students flourished and she went on to become the Alternative Certified (AC) Teacher of the Year at the local, state and national level.
A short time later, leaning on a deep desire to train middle school teachers with a college and career readiness program, Batchelder quit her job and launched Education Opens Doors, which now equips more than 12,00 middle school students every year to uncover the “bigger why” behind school during critical decision-making years.
“(We address) a pressing need in our education system: a lack of dedicated time during the school day to provide students with the knowledge and skills to navigate their college and career options,” Batchelder told Mavs.com. “Through EOD, students primarily from low economic backgrounds and communities of color, go from receiving the national average of 38 minutes of college and career counseling over four years to 900 minutes in just one year. We are proud to be an embedded part of many North Texas school districts and to watch thousands of middle school students every year create roadmaps for their future and become more informed and college-ready at earlier, critical decision-making times.”
The Mavericks have remained an important part of the Education Opens Doors journey to where it is today, Batchelder shared. The organization is one of the beneficiaries of the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation and was recently selected by the Mavs Foundation as one of the eight organizations to benefit from the ‘Chime in for a Cause’ initiative that was recently launched to aid local charities during the eight NBA restart games.
‘Chime in for a Cause’ is a partnership between the Mavs, Mavs Foundation and jersey patch sponsor Chime with a goal to boost funds for the nonprofits selected; for every Mavs’ free throw made, the Mavericks and Chime pitch in $500 to the Mavs Foundation, who will support the selected charities, such as Education Opens Doors.
“Now more than ever, systems of inequity within education are leaving thousands of youth in the area at a disadvantage,” said Katie Edwards, Dallas Mavericks senior vice president of external affairs and president of the Mavs Foundation. “As these students get back to school, they are facing additional unique challenges due to COVID-19. Education Opens doors is continuing to provide online interactive lessons and these lessons for low income students teach important financial literacy in personal financing, paying for college, choosing a career path and building character beyond graduation. We appreciate joining Chime to support education and financial literacy for these students during this time.”
Thursday night against the L.A. Clippers, the Mavericks notched 16 free throws, a donation of $8,000 to Education Opens Doors through the Mavs Foundation. However, Edwards said the Mavericks and Chime boosted that total to $10,000 and Education Opens Doors will also earn more funds donated from fans after the duration of all eight games.
The contributions will be distributed evenly to all eight charities (click here to donate).
Batchelder said it was an exciting day when Education Opens Doors was selected to benefit from the ‘Chime in for a Cause’ campaign.
“We were excited when we found out,” she enthusiastically shared. “The Mavs Foundation continues to make meaningful and inspirational impact in our community, and we were honored to be selected. Education Opens Doors will use the generous gift for the digitization of the EOD curriculum which includes an online teacher training and support platform. EOD has pivoted our model of service delivery to meet the dynamic needs of schools for the upcoming school year. Whether schools participate in our traditional, school-based program or through distance learning, the virtual platform will more efficiently provide resources and training for teachers implementing our program and increase engagement for our students.”
Most importantly, Batchelder said, the support from the Mavs Foundation and Chime arrives at a critical time because the pandemic has required EOD to be flexible and innovative in both programs offered and their mode of implementation.
“One of our main priorities as an organization is access – our program is built ideally for all students to be able to access it in the classroom,” Batchelder said. “When you take away the classroom, it forces us to rethink what that looks like.”
Education Opens Doors leaders have also kept lessons like “adaptability and empathy” at the forefront, she said.
“We wanted to be supportive partners to our schools, teachers, and students while also providing what they need,” Batchelder said. “None of this would have been possible if we weren’t willing to innovate, take risks, and not be afraid to fail.”
It’s an opportunity that Batchelder can teach because her entire life has served as a reflection of resilience, servanthood and the ability to rise in the midst of all odds.
“We are embracing this as a learning opportunity and realize we will make mistakes as we build new products and think differently about how we can best support our students. This has required shifts of roles, expectations, and mindsets on our team, but it’s been fun, high energy, and impactful as we are committed to our students.”
Tamara Jolee, Dallas Mavericks
For parents, caregivers, teachers and anyone who is invested in their student’s future, Education Opens Doors say they are here to serve as your partner and “home” for resources and knowledge to ensure all students pursue their limitless potential. They believe that students have the right to understand the value of an education and how to access and attain all options available to them after high school. To learn more, visit: educationopensdoors.org.