2024 Mid-Year Impact Reflection

June 25, 2024

The Leaders of Color program is working to improve education outcomes for students in Louisiana, Memphis, New York, Washington D.C., and across the nation. At the mid-way point of 2024, we are taking stock of the progress our alumni have made across our sites. 

Louisiana

Many alumni of the Louisiana Leaders of Color program are focused on education and youth safety policies, achieving significant milestones. Leaders of Color are actively fighting for equitable voting maps in Louisiana, advocating for fair representation that reflects the state's diverse population.

On the education front, alum Mia Gonzales Washington has been a strong advocate for Louisiana students, securing five confirmed meetings with senators and congressional representatives in Washington D.C. to discuss increasing equity and removing barriers to postsecondary success. Similarly, alum and Louisiana State Representative Vanessa LaFleur, along with the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, condemned the Jefferson Parish Superintendent's decision to adopt Prager University content in schools, emphasizing the importance of educational integrity. Karen Burks led the successful advocacy efforts for HB 103, a bill that incorporates financial literacy into the school curriculum to better prepare students for financial independence.

To help make our communities stronger and safer, alum Brent Bailey met with Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss strategies for gun violence prevention, underscoring the need for effective measures to protect communities. Leaders of Color alum and State Representative Daryl Joy Walters contributed to enhancing community policing and public safety by authoring HB820, an amendment to an existing law that includes community stakeholders in police training and mandates quarterly de-escalation training for police officers. 

Memphis

Leaders of Color in Memphis, TN, have made significant strides in education policy and political engagement, with a focus on preparing alumni for public office and advocating for equitable educational opportunities. Several Leaders of Color in Memphis are candidates for public office. Running for positions on the Memphis Shelby County School Board are ‍Dr. Audrey Elion, Danielle Huggins, Frank Johnson, Natalie McKinney, Sable Otey, and Tamarques Porter. Alum Dr. Telisa Franklin is running to become the next TN State Representative in House District 96.  

This year, Leaders of Color hosted a Ready to Run Bootcamp in Memphis to prepare alumni to run for office, resulting in at least seven fellows declaring their candidacy for various positions. In collaboration with local organizations, they also hosted a town hall to oppose the school voucher bill, mobilizing alumni to take action and inform the community about the bill's implications on Black and Latinx youth. Their efforts were instrumental in defeating the voucher legislation, and they worked alongside fellow alum Councilwoman Thomas to pass a resolution opposing the bill. Alum Dr. Audrey Elion further contributed to this cause by penning an op-ed making the case against vouchers.

Moreover, a new poll indicates that two-thirds of Memphis voters support the expansion of charter, magnet, and other public school options over private school vouchers, reflecting the community's alignment with the goals of Leaders of Color to support and sustain high-quality public schools.

Leaders of Color have also been active in Memphis Mayor Young's administration, with several alumni serving on his transition team. These alumni presented recommendations under different committees to guide his term. Additionally, Leaders of Color are currently working with local community partner organizations to host a school board candidate debate, further engaging the community in critical education discussions. 

New York

Leaders of Color in New York have made notable contributions to youth and community development, and advocacy for critical social services. Alum Jermaine Sean Smith secured a $3.5 million commitment from Congressman Meeks for the Southern Queens Parks Association, where he serves as executive director. This funding will establish The Goodrich Legacy Center, a recreation center dedicated to workforce development and entrepreneurship for city youth, aiming to provide essential resources and opportunities for the community.

In her role as the Chief of Staff for the New York Charter Schools Association, Natasha Cherry-Perez led National School Choice Day at the New York State Capitol. She spearheaded a day of public charter school advocacy alongside community leaders, educators, elected officials, and DFER NY.

In another significant engagement, alum Janna Rodriguez discussed the importance of a healthy child care ecosystem with Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Mark Madrid, the Associate Administrator of the Office of Entrepreneurial Development at the SBA. This discussion underscores the ongoing efforts of Leaders of Color to address vital issues affecting children and families, highlighting the need for robust support systems to foster community well-being.

Washington, D.C.

Leaders of Color alumni in Washington D.C. have been actively involved in advancing educational excellence, community service, and advocacy for essential public policies. Alumni Minetre Martin and LaJoy Johnson-Law testified before the D.C. State Board of Education, emphasizing the importance of math excellence, and alum Andre Aina advocated for investments in mathematics education in D.C. schools in testimony to the board. 

In addition to their advocacy work, several Leaders of Color in Washington D.C. are stepping into political roles to effect change from within the system. T. Michelle Colson (Ward 4), Sherica Muhammad (Ward 7), and LaJoy Johnson-Law (Ward 8) have filed to run for the D.C. State Board of Education, aiming to bring their expertise and dedication to improve local education.

Leaders of Color in D.C. have also made significant contributions to community engagement, public health, and the workforce. Alum Terrance Brown organized a day of service at Ron Brown High School, fostering community spirit and engagement. Gregory Anthony Dear, Jr. held a Health Equity Round Table for healthcare professionals, addressing crucial issues in healthcare access and quality. Alum Victoria Harvey has been selected to speak at this year's Green Zone Environmental Program, one of the largest summer green jobs training programs for youth and young adults in the nation.

National Impact and Growth

Across the nation, Leaders of Color are making significant strides, driving change in various communities through political engagement, advocacy, and leadership development. In California, Leaders of Color Washington D.C. alum Mario Enriquez advanced to the run-off in the Stockton City Council election, highlighting the growing political influence of the program's alumni. Leaders of Color also continues to expand its impact by welcoming the Class of 2024, a new cohort of 86 leaders poised to make meaningful contributions in their respective communities. Upon graduation in August 2024, they will join 271 fellow Leaders of Color alumni making a difference around the country. 

From securing vital funding for community projects to advancing equitable education policies and preparing alumni for public office, the achievements of our alumni are testament to their dedication and effectiveness. Together, we are shaping a future where leadership reflects the diversity and strength of our nation.

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