Although they all come from different personal and professional backgrounds, all Building Excellent Schools Fellows join the Fellowship with one common goal: To transform the lives of urban children through education.
Get to know some of these extraordinary individuals:
Shantelle Wright knows firsthand the power of education.
Raised in a poor, urban neighborhood in upstate New York, she faced a future defined by her socio-economic status. But her mother wanted better for young Shantelle, and, because she understood that education would give her daughter opportunities, she sacrificed to send her to a suburban school—two hours away.
Wright excelled in school and became an attorney—more…
“This is something in our society that isn’t right, and I’d like to be a part of fixing it.”
It was as simple as that for Philadelphia native Sean Gallagher, when he read the news about the terrible quality of public education in his
hometown and decided to become a teacher.
A call center manager at the investment management company The Vanguard Group, Gallagher was content in his corporate job more…
As a young man, Scott McCue was certain that he wanted to be a doctor. But, in college, “on a whim,” he tutored children at a nearby housing project—and immediately fell in love with the work.
So instead of medical school, McCue attended Teachers College, Columbia University, and taught social studies for two years at a New York City high school. Discouraged by the staff’s lack of coordination and low expectations for the students, McCue left and took a teaching position at Boston’s Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter School, where he eventually served as dean of students. more…
When Jacob Mnookin entered Teach For America after earning his bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College, he had no intention of pursuing a career in education. According to him, the volunteer corps “sounded like an interesting option while I figured out the rest of my life.”
Now founder and executive director of Coney Island Prep, a high-performing public charter school in Brooklyn, NY, Mnookin has come to realize that providing underserved students with an excellent education is exactly what he’s meant to do. more…
Work hard. Go to college. Change the world!
This is not just some lofty objective. For more than 2,000 students in the Democracy Prep Public Schools, it’s a way of life.
Founded by Seth Andrew in 2005, the Democracy Prep network of seven high-performing no excuses schools located in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City and Camden, N.J., educates students in grades K-12 to become responsible citizen-scholars prepared for success in the college of their choice and a life of active citizenship. In 2010, Democracy Prep Charter Middle School was the number one ranked public middle school in New York City. more…
Yutaka Tamura was about to enroll in Harvard Business School when he had a last-minute change of heart. A management consultant at The Parthenon Group, Tamura knew that he ultimately wanted to work with children and education—he had spent summers working with kids, and he wrote his business school application essay about starting a youth organization—but he didn’t think he’d learn what he really needed to know in business school.
So Tamura went right to the source: the classroom, where he taught for a few years at a Boston-area independent high school. He then enrolled in the BES Fellowship—what he considered to be his best option to leverage his business background and do something with kids.
“The entrepreneurial aspect of the BES Fellowship resonated with me the most,” he explains. more…
“I want to help kids who look like me get a tremendous education that allows them to have choices in life,” says Roblin Webb. “Education is a way to advance civil rights.”
It was Webb’s passion for civil rights that motivated her to become an attorney right out of college. While litigating on behalf of the Memphis (TN) City School District, she was exposed to the myriad inequalities in urban education—and inspired to do something about it. So she left her law firm and joined an educational nonprofit. more…
Rachel Bennett Yanof
Rachel (Bennett) Yanof left her home in Alaska for Georgetown University in Washington, DC, to become a politician. Quickly disillusioned, she planned instead to “go to Wall Street and make a million dollars.”
It’s a good thing for the children of south Phoenix that plans don’t always work out.
Today, Yanof serves as executive director of Phoenix more…
From a young age, Andrew Boy knew that he wanted to pursue a career in education. His grandfather was a superintendent, his grandmother was a teacher, and his father is a member of the school board, so he grew up surrounded by influential people in the field.
Boy started out as a teacher at W.E.B. DuBois Academy, an urban charter school in Cincinnati. He also served as science lab director and designed the school’s science program, which vastly improved students’ proficiency scores. During Boy’s tenure, the academy earned Ohio’s top rating for academic performance. more…
While an undergraduate at Boston College, Hrag Hamalian tutored underserved Boston Public School children. He had taught before—in high school, in middle school, at camps—and already harbored an affinity for teaching, but this experience was different: Working one-on-one with underprivileged kids fostered in him a passion for urban education.
So Hamalian volunteered with Teach For America after graduation. His two-year stint teaching ninth-grade and honors biology at Alain Leroy Locke High School in Watts, CA—one of the lowest performing high schools in the nation—exposed him to the failures of our urban educational system and solidified in him a desire to improve it. more…