When Megan Weinstein started college at Illinois Wesleyan University, she had a very specific dream: to become the US Ambassador to New Zealand.

After graduating with a degree in international relations, she pursued that dream abroad through a graduate school that allowed her to study in Germany, Thailand, and South Africa. Megan embraced her unique opportunity to live in other countries and loved her studies, but noticed a common theme emerging in her academic work: education.

“Every single one of my major papers was education-related,” she says.

A light bulb began to flicker. Megan started working with a branch of the non-profit group Facing History and Ourselves in South Africa, which engages students in an examination of history as it relates to racism, prejudice, and antisemitism.

She wrote her MA thesis on whether the branch, called Shikaya, helped students feel they had more voice in society. She found that the organization increased civic values and actions, as well as feelings of self-efficacy. Megan was inspired, and she realized that her papers were focusing on education for a reason.

She no longer wanted to be the Ambassador to New Zealand and “sit in the ivory tower of diplomacy, but rather wanted to transform society from the bottom up through education research.”

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Education Pioneers and a placement focused on data analytics was the perfect fit for Megan. She felt particularly supported by the EP Fellowship staff and cohort.

“When I came back to the States, I had a lot to learn. I understood race and racism in South Africa and what was happening politically in Thailand, but I didn't really understand what was happening in the US,” Megan explains. “EP brought me in into a space where it was safe to learn and grow.”

Megan says she built strong relationships with her Fellowship cohort. She notes that those relationships can’t help but grow when you travel the country together, share so much, and “sit in hotel hot tubs talking about social justice.”

During her fellowship placement, Megan supported Seeding Success—a non-profit in Memphis that collaborates to ensure every child graduates high school prepared for college, career, and success in life—through data-informed policy research and recommendations. In this role, she analyzed data to develop reports and briefs on key topics in local, state, and federal education policy that influenced collaborative work with the school district and local organizations.

“I looked at the pathways between policy and outcomes and whether or not the outcomes reflected the policy decisions made,” says Megan. “While at Seeding Success, I focused on student discipline policies and attendance as it relates to chronic health conditions and how our policies can better serve students.”

In July 2017, Megan joined ALLMemphis, a new non-profit that implements literacy training in elementary schools based on the Orton-Gillingham method. The method is particularly transformative for dyslexic and functional dyslexic students, says Megan, now the Director of Evaluation. “About 20% of the population has some form of dyslexia. But the majority of low-income families will never get a diagnosis because it's very expensive and not covered by insurance,” says Megan.

Additionally, 20-40% of students suffer from “functional dyslexia,” which occurs when children are not exposed to early language skills in the first five years of life. “When 1 in 5 students aren’t able to read because they don't have the appropriate methods to learn, something has to be done. I’m currently working on planning the evaluation methodology for the program and will assess whether the ALLMemphis train-the-teacher and train-the trainer literacy approach is successful.”

Eventually, ALLMemphis hopes to serve every student in Shelby County county and beyond.

Why? Because “we can do better than 1 in 5 students unable to read,” she says.