28 Mar Drawing Inspiration from Past Experience
3/4 x 4/3 = 1. Most ninth graders can solve that immediately. Raven, one of the students I tutored as an undergraduate in Baltimore, could not. She was frustrated and discouraged, so I showed her some of the techniques I learned during my own struggles with math. I remember so clearly the look on her face as she successfully completed the rest of her assignment on her own. Seeing her improvement week by week brought me so much joy, and I know our National Teacher Fellows experience that feeling on a daily basis.
I felt a similar joy with Lavette, a 36-year-old single mom of three with whom I worked at an adult literacy program. The last time I saw Lavette was two weeks before she took and passed her third attempt at the GED exam. She gave me one of her written assignments, which I still read every so often. It was a full page on why she wanted to get her GED. She was so proud to show me how she had perfected her paragraph writing skills over the past several months. My favorite part said, “I can’t sleep at night because I’m too excited for class. I can’t describe the feeling I get here. When I do well, it motivates me and keeps me going.” Lavette made me want to provide for all students a high quality education that would make them just as passionate as she was without having to wait as long to achieve academic success.
A few years later, I was with some other students in my graduate program mentoring during lunch at a Washington, DC area high school. One of the questions we asked the small group of students was “Who makes you feel special?” A twelfth grader named Ciara promptly said, “No one.” Her response rocked me to my core, because she is so close to the end of her high school career, and the high school experience goes far beyond academics. School is a sanctuary where life long relationships and foundations are built. I so badly wanted her to say that her teachers and friends made her feel special, and I firmly believed there was something I could do to ensure that one day soon her answer would be different.
My experiences with Raven, Lavette and Ciara contributed to the journey that has led me to undertake graduate study in the field of education policy. I want to do my part in making sure that every student experiences breakthroughs like Raven’s and Lavette’s and avoids feeling the way Ciara did. By attacking some of the core issues affecting the American education system, I hope to positively impact generations of students and improve their chances for success. I feel the urgent need for change and the dire consequences our nation faces if these problems are left unsolved.
Of all the policy areas, education means the most to me because I would not be who I am without my education. I wanted to get a master’s degree in public policy because I knew that launching a career in education reform would provide me with opportunities to make positive change and to see the direct results of that change, no matter how big or small. My desire to have a meaningful impact in the field of education policy is what led me to Hope Street Group. I have had so many incredible teachers over the course of my academic career, and Hope Street Group’s dedication to providing teachers with a voice in education policy is one of the main reasons why I wanted to join the staff. Teachers are the driving force behind the education system. They should be the first people policymakers consult during the reform process, especially on key issues such as evaluation. Hope Street Group provides the bridge that makes those connections possible.