My year as a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2005-06 was an important turning point in my professional, academic, and activist career. Not only was I afforded the opportunity to connect with many amazing people through the fellowship program, I was also able to take much needed time and space away from the incredibly busy life of a public school teacher to think about how best to continue my efforts to effect social justice in the world. Since 2006, I have continued my academic journey as a doctoral student in education at Harvard. In October, I plan to submit my dissertation, exploring the lives, political trajectories, activism, and teaching practices of four teachers in New York City. In addition to my doctoral studies, I have been busy professionally, and continue to be committed to the education justice community.
In 2008, I joined the advisory board for the Education for Liberation Network (EdLib), and have served as a leader and organizer for the Free Minds Free People (FMFP) conference since 2009. EdLib is a national coalition of educators, activists, researchers, students, and parents who believe a good education should teach people — particularly low-income youth and youth of color — how to understand and challenge the injustices their communities face. FMFP occurs every other year as a national conference, gathering hundreds of EdLib network members and allies to build a movement promoting education as a tool for liberation. Serving as one of the co-leaders of the host committee for the 2011 FMFP conference in Providence, Rhode Island was an amazing and humbling experience, as I was able to meet and connect with people doing liberatory education work from all around the United States. We continue to grow as a movement and a community, and are looking forward to this year’s FMFP conference in Chicago.
In addition, I currently work as a Principal Associate for Community Organizing and Engagement at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform (AISR) at Brown University. I manage AISR’s technical assistance and capacity building support for community organizing and engagement in the New England/Northeast region. We support community-based organizations to build power and relationships by organizing parents, youth, and other community leaders, with the goal of ensuring that public schools are held accountable to serving communities’ best interests. Since joining AISR in 2011, I have worked directly with youth and parent organizations in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and Pennsylvania. I continue to be inspired by the people I meet through my work, and by their vision, energy, and hope for a more just and equitable education system. I experienced similar feelings of inspiration while listening to speakers at the Academy of Achievement in 2006.
While those invited to speak at the Academy had accomplished work with a much higher profile than the work of those with whom I interact in my work, the connective tissue between these experiences is the human drive for goodness and justice that I have the privilege of witnessing on a regular basis. Whether learning from Archbishop Desmond Tutu (and his moves on the Academy dance floor!), being inspired by the philanthropic spirit of George Lucas, or more recently, gaining energy from the passionate activism of teenagers in Philadelphia who are fighting for their public schools, my own life experiences have kept me refreshed and renewed at every turn.