Amanda Epstein Devercelli, Class of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, The World Bank
The 2010 Academy of Achievement Summit in Washington, D.C. was an incredible end to the year I spent as a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, being inspired by colleagues and friends, learning and thinking about what I truly wanted to do with my life. Hearing from so many creative, committed and effective social entrepreneurs and public servants in only two days inspired me to think differently about making an impact. Although my husband and I carry out our work on two continents, we have found a way to make our careers work for our growing family. We spend most of the year in Lima, Peru, with frequent travel to Washington, D.C. and various countries in Africa. We’re both doing work we love and believe in, and are enjoying life. Our son is nearly two years old and Baby Devercelli number two is due in December!
I have been working in the education sector at the World Bank for the last three years. In November, I accepted a new assignment, coordinating the Bank’s Early Childhood Development activities in Africa through an initiative called the Early Learning Partnership. The returns on every dollar invested in young children in low and middle-income countries are estimated to be between $7 and $16 — yet most countries significantly underinvest in their youngest citizens. Research tells us that if we improve development opportunities for children in their early years, we can improve their academic performance and reduce drop-out rates. By increasing the amount of time they spend in school we can stimulate the formation of critical thinking skills that employers are looking for, and enable more women to enter the workforce if they choose. Through the Early Learning Partnership, I’ll be leading a team to promote early learning opportunities for young children, and strategies to engage families, communities and the private sector through public-private partnerships and better use of public resources.
The Reynolds Fellowship not only propelled my career, but my husband’s also. He attended many of the Fellowship and Center for Public Leadership events. In March 2011, he launched an after-school program called Pasala! (Pass It On), which combines soccer instruction with literacy development activities for children. Two-thirds of all 15 year-olds in Peru can’t read well enough to understand the meaning of a basic sentence. Pasala! is a social enterprise designed to get kids excited about reading and writing, and improve their reading comprehension using a curriculum built entirely around sports.
I’m grateful to still keep in touch with Reynolds Fellows who are all over the world doing incredible things. If there are Academy of Achievement alumni events planned for the future, please sign me up!