ABOUT US: Our Story


13 Jul04:29
13 Jul04:29
Jul 1995

A Neighborhood in Need

In 1995, a commercial real estate magnate named Tom Cousins saw a neighborhood that was running low on hope after enduring years of neglect, discrimination and obstacles.

13 Jul04:43
13 Jul04:43

East Lake, Atlanta

This community, known as East Lake, Atlanta, had heartbreakingly low school test scores, rampant crime, and high unemployment rates.

13 Jul04:45
13 Jul04:45

The Three Pronged Approach

Tom and his partners at East Lake came up with a three-pronged approach to work with the community to overcome its challenges. They introduced high-quality housing options that integrated various income levels, developed a cradle-through-career pipeline to ensure residents were provided high-quality options at every step along their educational pathway and introduced community wellness programs to build healthy outcomes for East Lake.

13 Jul04:44
13 Jul04:44

Helping the Whole

Tom wanted to do something about this. So he joined forces with resident leaders, community stakeholders, and the Atlanta Housing Authority to invest in a holistic vision. Together, they focused on helping the WHOLE of the community rather than on any one part.

13 Jul04:45
13 Jul04:45

Amazing Results

Well, Tom and his team were onto something, because the results were amazing! A new charter school now ranks as one of the top performing schools in Atlanta, crime rates went down by 97% and employment increased dramatically. Twenty years later, East Lake continues to evolve and thrive as a community for all.

17 Jul19:51
17 Jul19:51

Success Elsewhere?

Tom told his two buddies, Warren Buffett and hedge-fund manager Julian Robertson, about the efforts in East Lake and they were intrigued by the possibilities. They wondered if this three-pronged approach could work in other communities where a little help (like creating fair policies) and a little hope (like dreaming of good job opportunities) were needed to give families a new chance.

17 Jul19:52
17 Jul19:52

Purpose-Built Communities

In 2009, Tom, Warren, and Julian founded Purpose Built Communities, a non-profit aimed at spreading this holistic approach to bring about community success in other U.S. neighborhoods. To learn more about the Purpose Built model, visit: https://purposebuiltcommunities.org


13 Jul04:49
13 Jul04:49
Jul 2013

Putting Down Roots

In 2013, KIPP Texas Public Schools invested over $25 million to convert the old Sharpstown General Hospital into the KIPP: CONNECT flagship campus. This 155,000 sf building and 7-acre campus includes a Primary, Middle and High School. When opening the school, KIPP knew they had put down roots in a vibrant and special part of town. Gulfton/Sharpstown is the largest immigrant and refugee resettlement neighborhood in the most diverse city in the country.

13 Jul04:51
13 Jul04:51

Building a Community

Based on the unique dynamics of the Gulfton/Sharpstown community, KIPP wanted to make sure every student was set up for success. They knew the best way to do this was to support a student’s family, teachers, and community. So the KIPP co-founder reached out to St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Legacy Community Health and the YMCA of Greater Houston for help.

13 Jul04:53
13 Jul04:53

Bringing a Purpose-Built Community to Houston

In 2013, these four organizations landed upon Purpose-Built Communities as the model they wanted to emulate in Houston. Together, in 2016, they created what is now known as Connect Community, a non-profit focused on bringing organizations and local residents together to collaborate and align their efforts so that they are able to mobilize a broader network of assets to meet needs and strengthen the overall community.

13 Jul04:54
13 Jul04:54

Working Together

All four anchor organizations along with other community partners work together to align missions and improve the overall health and wellbeing of Gulfton/Sharpstown. Connect Community acts as the “community quarterback” or coordinator amongst the partners to ‘bust silos, connect dots and herd cats’ ensuring that all partners have their North Star pointed towards the same outcomes.



On days when Anne isn’t running between meetings or interacting with community members, she can be found doing dishes or last-minute wrinkle removal. As she says “no job is too big or too small when it comes to achieving our mission.”


No matter how you see it, Sheridan is skilled at connecting resources to our residents and compounding our impact.


Never one to shy away from a difficult conversation or a taciturn teenager, Ryan is seen as an expert in building relationships and advocating for students and families.


Anitha’s time is usually “booked” spinning cheesy puns (like this one) or telling stories about the people she meets, all with the hope of keeping people informed and our community connected.

Mirella Sales

Known to add a sparkle of joy to any moment, Mirella coaches our students and teachers to become their most empathetic selves.


Beatriz Aguirre

Bringing her skills from MBA classrooms to the Connect board room, Beatriz is adept at helping Connect make sound investments and ensuring every dollar is maximized.


Laura Capper, President and CEO of CAP Resources, goes by many names — but we prefer to call her “Girl Boss.”


A man with many talents, Eric is equally adept working a dance floor as he is being Head of Schools at Sunnyside, Sharpstown and CONNECT for KIPP Texas.

Galen Hines-Pierce

Since Galen has joined our board, we haven’t been able to stop screaming (Home Alone style) in disbelief that we have him on our team helping steer the Connect Community ship.


As a lifelong advocate for children’s education, Ann is known to take all of life’s surprises with a smile and a positive attitude.


As our Board Chair, Mush Khan can usually be seen thinking up the next big strategy to propel Connect Community forward… or perhaps what to eat for dinner.

Emina Kobiljar

Despite not being surrounded by paparazzi, Emina is pretty famous in our neck of the woods for her incredible work ethic and her Gulfton roots.

Armando Orduña

Armando’s enthusiasm for life coupled with his experience in education make him the perfect advocate for Gulfton’s next generation.


Dr. Tom Pace is known to raise the roof in his sermons at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church and in board meetings at Connect Community.


Hailing from our healthcare partner, Legacy Community Health, Jeanette uses her operations background to multi-task as our efficiency driver and organizational cheerleader.


The greatest world we can see is the one where we are not needed.

And yet, in our current world, our families work hard every day to make ends meet. And every day they are faced with barriers that make it difficult to achieve success. This is why we exist.

We connect the dots.
We break down the barriers.
We ease the transition.
We simplify the process.
We hear the stories.
We build the relationships.
We make the possibilities more plausible.
We compound the impact.

And we do all of this as a collective “We” never “I.” Because at the end of the day, this isn’t about us. This is about our families having the same opportunities as everyone else. This is about our students becoming the greatest beacon for our future. This is about our community unlocking its potential.

This is about working with our community so it can thrive, not merely survive.

“There is nothing more worthwhile than watching somebody blossom into somebody they never dreamed they could be”

– Warren Buffett

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