Impact in Memphis: A Fellowship Capstone Project to Support High School Preparation

In 2015, nine Education Pioneers Fellows began learning about and working in the education community of Shelby County, TN (which includes Memphis), through their Fellowship placement at Seeding Success. Together, they also conceived of, launched, and evaluated a project to expand their impact in Memphis, and this post is their story of that work.


Here in Shelby County, TN, we are humbled by the tremendous work being done in the community to bring about equity for children, and we have been glad to play a small part in that important work.

In addition to our EP Fellowship placements throughout the community, our Fellowship cohort decided to also contribute a culminating project, a capstone of sorts. This project has been a cumulative effort to bring together each Fellow’s strengths, talents, and work focus to have a community-level impact in the Greater Memphis area.

Memphis is bursting with organizations working to provide equitable educational opportunities and outcomes for students. Instead of pursuing a project separate from these efforts, we decided instead to use this project to connect organizations and expand upon the work they’re already doing. To ensure the program we created is meaningful and lasts beyond our Fellowships, we decided to embed it within the existing education landscape here.

At the onset of the project, we outlined the goals and results we planned to pursue, including the strategies we’d use to reach them. We also researched existing youth programs and activities in Memphis that were aligned with our goals. From there, three Fellows led the group through bi-weekly “results based facilitation” (RBF) sessions (from the book Trying Hard is Not Good Enough by Mark Friedman), to set up the structure and accountability we’d need to ensure we made progress toward our specified goals.

Our cohort teamed up with seven local organizations to kick off a new Grizzlies Scholars Program as a result of our RBF sessions. The program provides an immersive, yearlong learning experience – including mentoring – to eighth grade students to prepare them for acceptance into and success in the rigorous academic high school of their choice.

Specifically, we supported planning and logistics for the mentorship side of the program with the New Memphis Institute (NMI). After various collaborative sessions with New Memphis, a group of Fellows led the New Memphis team in building a logic model to link their mission to their outcomes for the mentorship aspect of the program. Further, we provided NMI with secondary research on mentorship models, best practices in youth mentor programs, and indicators of success for soft skill-building.

With a solid map for success, the New Memphis Institute is now prepared to recruit and train mentors capable of helping the new Grizzlies Scholars prepare for success in their high school years and tackle complex and difficult themes around social justice and resilience. As a result, mentors and scholars can create lasting bonds through fun and meaningful activities that also create new opportunities for mutual self-development and self-reflection.

In Service,

Education Pioneers Seeding Success Cohort 2015-2016

Megan Weinstein, Om Chitale, Gwendy Williams, Marvin Boomer, Karen Bouldin, Steve Kren, Heath Labar, Demarcus Love, and Jay Cao

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