As a current EP Analyst Fellow, I’m in the midst of an incredibly transformational experience. And while I don’t yet have the benefit of hindsight, I know choosing this program was the right choice. If you’re considering taking the leap, here’s why I think you should.
1. A little discomfort can be a great thing. Was becoming a Fellow risky for me? Ostensibly, yes. I had a great job as a market research analyst in Austin, Texas where I worked with Fortune 100 companies on their communications and messaging campaigns. Plus, I lived in a vibrant city, biked to work, and was surrounded by friends. From the outside, you might have thought I was a little nuts to give it up.
But the thing is, I’ve seen the data. I know that in Dallas County where I went to school, of the nearly 31,000 kids who started 8th grade in 2000 (my peers), only 15% earned a degree or certificate within 6 years of high school graduation. To me, these kids aren’t numbers; they are my classmates, teammates, and friends. So breaking out of my comfort zone to try and change dismal statistics for future generations hasn’t felt risky at all. This experience has solidified for me that education is where I need to be working.
2. You might find your place where you never expected it. Through the Fellowship, I was placed with RGV FOCUS, an Educate Texas initiative in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Other than having friends who’d served as teachers here through Teach For America, I knew no one personally or professionally when I arrived. But moving here to get my foot in the door and build a career in education has been an incredible professional boost. (Plus, the thorough and intense EP application and interview process gave me confidence that I was being directed to the best place for me.)
At Educate Texas, I’m a part of a three-person team and together, we’re moving a significant amount of work forward. When I interviewed with our Executive Director, she told me, “We can build this. People are willing to invest in this work. We get to figure it out from start to finish.” That sold me.
From day one, I’ve been involved at every level. Whether it’s strategic planning, telling our story at conferences, helping with grants, or getting actionable data in the hands of superintendents, college presidents, and community leaders, we’re working tirelessly to create a sustainable model for regional collaboration in the Valley. Demographics are not destiny. We want to ensure that more than 410,000 students in this area (over 90% of whom are Latino and 86% of whom are from low-income families) have better options to get to and through college and build a prosperous life.
The opportunity to explore, participate in, and lead all aspects of our work has been an unmatched opportunity to find out what I really like and want to do.
3. You make meaningful connections with other EP leaders that are deeper than other professional relationships. It has been tremendously helpful to get to know and connect with the other Fellows in my cohort. In fact, our shared personal and professional experiences have enabled us to strip away the small talk and ask each other the hard questions right away.
In my cohort, there are two other Fellows who are doing similar work in Washington, DC and Memphis, Tennessee. When I see them during EP convenings or other conferences, I don’t hesitate to get right to what I’m struggling with, and they do the same. It’s been invaluable to have a network that gets it. This work is high stakes, and it isn’t easy.
Plus, the EP convenings have been an important part of the experience as well as perfectly timed opportunities to push pause on my work, take a breath, and talk with peers about challenges, opportunities, and successes.
Where do you want to go in your career? If you want to make a meaningful impact in this world, try education. The challenges we face in the sector are very real. But you can also play a real part in creating and advancing solutions. The outcomes of this work are unlike that in any other sector, but to be a part of them, you have to jump in. Apply today.
Daniel Tesfay is a current Analyst Fellow (2014-2015 cohort) in Texas. He works with RGV FOCUS, an Educate Texas initiative, to connect public and private partners across four counties in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas to identify barriers to student success and develop creative solutions that benefit a growing population of over 410,000 students. Daniel chose to become an EP Fellow to use his analytic and research skills at an organization committed to improving education for the children who need it most.