Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/12/2013

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Ellyn Goldberg, Class of 2009
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Brown University,
United Providence!

My time as a Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education during the 2008-2009 academic year had a profound impact on the trajectory of my life and career. I have had the opportunity to apply what I learned about social entrepreneurship to diverse settings: public education, faith-based community outreach, and higher education. I have the utmost gratitude to Catherine and Wayne Reynolds for this incredible opportunity; I am not the same person I was before.

After graduation, I held fast to my belief that access to a quality education is the nation’s most important social justice issue. I moved to Providence, Rhode Island to accept a newly-created position as a Quantitative Reasoning Specialist at the MET, a state-funded public school district that focuses on individualized learning to empower students. As one of six pioneers of the “QR” Team at the MET, I was able to help define what the position would entail. In addition to developing more hands-on look and feel for mathematics instruction, I created and implemented the “Adopt-a-Mathlete” program, mobilizing the entire school community to supporting students to do their best on the high-stakes exam that will impact their future. It worked; the students did better than ever before in the history of the MET and I received the Raytheon MathMovesU Math Hero Award in the fall of 2011. President Obama praised the MET in a speech that year urging schools to “…follow the example of places like The MET Center in Rhode Island, that give students that individual attention while also preparing them through real-world, hands-on training for the possibility of succeeding in a career.”

In addition to applying my knowledge of entrepreneurship to help students, I have had the opportunity to work with teachers as well. In 2010, I collaborated with a team at the Education Development Center in Waltham, Massachusetts , to author a course entitled “Developing Math Practices in Algebra for Grades 4 – 10,” which focuses on helping teachers to incorporate the eight Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice into their teaching. This course is the first of its kind in the nation; in addition to working on its development, I have facilitated the course several times, with groups of teachers and administrators throughout Massachusetts.

In 2011, I felt a calling to leave my full-time position and work for a year as an “urban missionary,” serving my local church in a role I designed with my Pastor, developing ministries and outreach to the Providence community. Our work had four focuses, summed up by the acronym ABCD: Alvarez High School (a low-performing public school near our church), the Burmese refugee community, the local Community Center, and the Downtown homeless population. I am most proud of a weekly outreach we set up in conjunction with a homeless shelter; a group of us traveled to the shelter every Friday night to meet with residents, get to know them, and try to meet their needs in whatever ways we could. The year culminated with a week-long mission trip to an orphanage in Haiti.

After this missionary year, I realized I could best serve the community by utilizing my background and skills in education. I currently serve in two capacities: as Adjunct Lecturer in Education at Brown University and Director of Secondary Mathematics Education for Brown Summer High School; and as the Senior Mathematics Specialist for United Providence!, a start-up non-profit organization designed to manage the turnaround process in three of Providence’s lowest-performing schools. In all of these roles I am bringing to bear my experience as a Reynolds Fellow. This is the first time in its 45-year existence that Brown Summer High School will have a mathematics component! As one of six founding members of the UP! team, I have applied first-hand some of the “lessons learned” by social entrepreneurs I met during the fellowship year. UP! hopes to serve as a national model for collaboration between labor and management. Interestingly, one of our schools is Alvarez, the school we focused on during my year as an urban missionary. I could not be more grateful for my time as a Reynolds Foundation Fellow. My life has been quite a journey, and I look forward to many more adventures in leadership and entrepreneurship thanks to the generosity of Catherine and Wayne Reynolds.

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