Reform for All

My summer at the Center for Education Reform has come to an end, yet I am still pondering over all that I have learned about myself. This internship has taught me a lot of administrative skills, personal professionalism, and has affirmed that I really want to pursue a career in law after I graduate. My time in Washington DC this summer was amazing and living in another city for the summer, far away from my home state of Minnesota, was an experience that will prepare me for life after college.

My biggest learning moment occurred when I was working on a project to monitor website, Twitter, and Facebook traffic. I learned how to use Google Analytics, and I fell in love with all the cool different ways that Google tracks and maintains data. I loved collecting and analyzing data before this internship, and I knew that I wanted to go into law. However, after playing around with Google analytics, I decided that I would love to pursue a career in intellectual property law. I would be able to protect different technologies (such as Google) and different artworks, connecting my love for music, dance, data, and technology. I definitely would like to still work with education policy, but this internship helped me understand that the grassroots and more personal side of education reform is what I need to engage in.

Interning at CER taught me that I am better suited for grassroots education reform, rather than a top-down process. Yes, it was interesting going through contact lists and looking at all the names of top investors, CEO’s, and multi-millionaires, however I had a hard time trying to connect their work with supporting communities of color, and lower-income families who depend on charter schools for a better education. I enjoyed attending numerous meetings and events on Capitol Hill, learning more about how policy influences each state differently. I spent a lot of time doing my own research, collecting my own numbers in Excel spreadsheets and seeing what policies are in place to support these families and students. I realized that although I want to pursue a law career, I can still continue to do my own research and feel better knowing that my work will help reform for all.

Written by Jessica Stephens, BC Class of 2017

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Becoming a Leader in Education Policy

 

Education policy. Before starting my internship at the Center for Education Reform in Washington, DC, these two words were only heard, discussed, and written about. As a policy intern, I have now began to actually experience the behind-the-scenes work that contributes to the nation’s education reform movement.

It has only been two weeks but I have already been treated as if I’ve been part of the CER team for months. On my very first day, I walked into the office with sweaty palms and the desire to learn more. I sat down at my desk space and began browsing the web to read more about the history of education reform, the beginning of charter schools, and their progress. As a Minnesota Native, I was proud to discover that Minnesota was the first state to pass charter school legislation in 1991. I attended a charter school in north Minneapolis from Kindergarten until fall of 1st grade and I would like other students to have this same privilege.

The Center for Education has been the perfect environment for me because the staff encourages thinking outside the box and innovative problem solving. I have grown as a professional and am forced to come up with a creative solution and exhaust all possibilities before asking for help, and I love it. Within the first two weeks, I have also had the opportunity to attend two informational and inspiring events. The first event was the DC Opportunity Scholars Program luncheon held on Capitol Hill. Parents of scholars gathered with congressional staffers, interns, and advocates to discuss the impact of the scholarship on their children. These scholarships provide the parents the option to send their children to better schools in areas that aren’t always in their zip code. The parents’ remarks were moving and allowed me to develop a personal connection to education reform. The second event was our national press event at DC’s National Press Club for the releasing of CER’s new manifesto. Educational directors, CEO’s, advocates, and even students traveled from all over to discuss innovation and opportunity in education. These discussions are necessary and it’s a great feeling to know that hours of pulling contacts, updating databases, calling senators, and educating myself in my downtime have all paid off.

After reflecting on these past 2 weeks, I have realized that my experience so far at the Center for Education Reform has been more rewarding than I originally expected. I have learned how to TRULY dress business casual, been exposed to a multitude of careers in the realm of education reform, and have even made a connection along the way. Being in Washington DC itself is a great experience and I hope to learn more, grow more, and enjoy myself more as I spend my summer interning at the Center for Education Reform.

Written by Jessica Stephens, BC Class of 2017