La Mariposa Fund

Est. 2023 Nancy Roldán Johnson and Craig Johnson

Nancy and Craig Johnson
Craig and Nancy Johnson

Nancy Roldán Johnson has always believed in Latine empowerment. In 2016, as part of a nonprofit she co-founded called Together for Latinas, Roldán Johnson developed La Mariposa (The Butterfly), a 12-session empowerment program for Latina adolescents. Now, as part of the 20th anniversary of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven’s Progresso Latino Fund, Nancy and her husband, Craig, are deepening their investment in the Latine community through the La Mariposa Fund.

“For the evolving journey that every individual goes through, we want our fund to help Latine youth and young adults in need of support,” Nancy says. Craig adds, “I have seen the extra barriers that are often in place for Latines and the challenges of access [to opportunity].” In particular, the couple intends to focus their philanthropy on improving access to education and mental health services.

While figures from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) show college enrollment rates for Hispanics ages 18-24 increased by 14% from 2000 (22%) to 2018 (36%), Latine adolescents still face significant challenges ranging from high school completion to access to mental health support and treatment. According to U.S. Department of Education data, the nation’s Latine high school drop-out rate is 65% higher than white students, often exacerbated by systemic inequities. Research studies also show alarming trends among Latine mental health who collectively experience the highest levels of depression among different racial-ethnic groups. More than three-quarters (78%) of Latine youth reportedly suffer from traumatic adverse childhood experiences like poverty yet are less likely than any other group to receive clinical or school-based treatment and also less likely to receive mental health medication, according to the National Register of Health Service Psychologists.

“I hope [our support] can help remove the stigma around mental health,” says Nancy, noting mental health challenges were a part of her family growing up. Despite the obstacles she faced, Nancy knows firsthand how important positive influences and words of support can be. “I had a community college professor who saw something in me and believed in me,” Nancy says. “The power of words can be very powerful – especially to the mind of a young person.”

The couple sees community service and philanthropy as a civic duty and an important opportunity to give back. As successful professionals – Nancy serves as the executive director of California-based One Circle Foundation and Craig leads a division of a spirits and wine company – they want to help level the playing field. After spending nine years living in Sweden and London, they also understand the value of experiencing and celebrating different cultures and hope to elevate Latine pride, culture and opportunity.

“I want young Latines to know that whatever they aspire to be, there’s someone willing to help and resources available to [help] them,” Nancy says. “I hope the La Mariposa Fund can provide a steppingstone to opportunity.”

“When you help someone, you never know who will change the world,” Craig says. “While our fund is modest, we hope the people we help will change the world in a better way.”

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La Mariposa Fund