When I think about how and why I became the person I am today, it really centers on three things: Access, Community, and Voice.
My story is about how my family’s location could have been an obstacle to my success, and the lengths we overcame just to have access to quality schools. Add to that the need for my family’s collective effort to get me what I needed academically and the power of using my voice to speak up for myself. My story is not much different than the story of the students we serve today. We are living in a world that is changing and evolving and so should the quality of education we provide to Black and Brown students. This is my story and what I encountered as a student, but more importantly, what I have done as an educator to make students’ lives a success.
Access: I am not my Zip Code
Zip Code disparities are nothing new in America and certainly nothing new for Black people. My journey begins in Mobile, Alabama. The wonderful thing about my mother growing up in the South is that she knew that the small-town life was not enough for my future. She knew that Chicago offered more opportunities than the South could. Once we arrived in Chicago, the neighborhood’s educational opportunities were inadequate. So, with the help of teachers and other community leaders, she found a school in another community for me. This situation rings true for many students across the city. One in four black students will attend a low performing school in our city. I aim to shorten the distance between students and opportunity.
Community: Engineering Education
I am in my 13thyear as an educator and much of my work has been centered on team development, teacher leadership and student voice. Understanding that the work can only be moved by ALL of us. Civitas is being intentional about stakeholder engagement. This kind of collaboration and innovation is what my “WHY” is about. Communities of color have been talked at, reformed around and gentrified through. Knowing that schools are the cornerstone of any community, we are aiming to redesign and redefine school from the inside out…with students, parents and teachers leading the charge. For me, this is engineering…we are engineering our learning environments and communities.
Voices: Changing the narrative
There is so much bad press about the South and West Sides of Chicago. But as a proud South Sider and product of Chicago Public Schools, I am here to say that we are stars! We are the heart of the city and deserve to have the best that this great city has to offer. I am using my voice to make those unheard voices that have gone overlooked HEARD. Soon, you will hear their voices and be able to listen to their inspiring stories. We believe that the voices of students should be at the center of our innovation efforts and we are listening! We are collecting stories from our students and families to thoughtfully craft and design a powerful student experience.
And these experiences will be made available to students in their own communities.
So much more to come!
CEO, Civitas Education Partners
To listen and read more about LeeAndra's recent blogs and articles on Race in Schools, click on the following links:
We Talk About 'America to Me' (ft. LeeAndra Khan and Tracy Dell'Angela), 'America to Me' Director Steve James on Having a Real Conversation About Race in Schools, and Minding the math gap: District 97 finds ways to boost students of color into advanced math