Tommy Day began his career in management consulting, like so many of his peers. At the time, it seemed like a well-established path, allowing him to use his data and analytical skills to work for different firms and diversify his resume. Tommy enjoyed the work, but didn’t find that what he was doing on a daily basis to be fulfilling. Then the recession hit in 2008, and his consulting firm allowed anyone to take a sabbatical. This would turn out to be the turning point in both Tommy’s personal and professional life.
Having played soccer in college, Tommy joined the nonprofit Grassroot Soccer in Zambia for a year. Grassroot Soccer uses the power of soccer to connect with adolescents and educate them on health challenges such as HIV and AIDS, ultimately contributing to the dramatic decline in new HIV infections in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” Tommy admits, “but thought I could use soccer and Grassroot Soccer as a guide.” As a Program Advisor, he taught local children about HIV and risky behavior, using soccer as a metaphor. For Tommy, the most rewarding parts of his work — and what would ultimately change the course of his life — would be learning a new culture and working with kids every day. “Seeing how my work impacted their lives put me on a different path,” he says.
This experience of making a direct impact piqued Tommy’s interest in the social sector and put him on a path to business school, which is where he found EP. The summer before Tommy started his first year at the Yale School of Management, he met another member of his class who had done the EP Fellowship. The conversation only lasted about five minutes, but after discussing both of their interests and hearing his classmate share his experience as a Fellow, Tommy decided to apply.
“In that moment I realized EP was perfectly aligned with what I wanted to,” Tommy says. “If I wanted to work towards equity in America, education was it.”
- Data & Analysis
- Program & Project Management
As a Fellow, Tommy worked as an Operations Fellow at Cristo Rey High School in Boston, MA. Across their nationwide network of schools, Cristo Rey serves more than 9,800 urban young people from low income communities in 30 schools around the country.
During his Fellowship, Tommy was tasked with completely revamping their school lunch program. At the time, Cristo Rey had constructed a kitchen and hired internal kitchen staff to have a fully built out lunch program. The problem was they were losing money. Tommy’s charge was to figure out why they were losing money and create a solution to fix it.
By analyzing data, he quickly identified that the problem stemmed from being a small school buying from massive companies with high prices. Tommy gave Cristo Rey ideas on how to join consortiums that exist to help small purchasers in the buying process so they can decrease their costs. He also helped the school reorganize their school lunch data systems so that they could more easily update their database around students’ free or reduced lunches. Although it wasn’t teaching, Tommy saw his placement impact as directly related to the well-being of students — which was exactly the type of meaningful work he was looking to do.
This role would end up benefiting Tommy exponentially post-Fellowship. Now, Tommy works as the Director of Operations for Match Middle School, a 300-student campus that is part of a network serving more than 1,000 schools across in the Boston area. Match’s mission is to deliver a high quality education to all of its students and put them on the path for college and career readiness.
For Tommy, working at Match was a natural progression in his trajectory. From his EP experience, he got a jump-start in learning what it takes to run the operations of a school. In fact, the understanding he gained about school lunch regulations helped him reshape the lunch systems and processes at Match Middle School, saving Match thousands of dollars on a monthly basis.
Now that he’s a Director, Tommy spends his time both helping set the long term vision of Match Middle School, and also spending time interacting with students on a daily basis. From making sure that students are getting fed, to negotiating contracts for school enhancements, to making sure that busses are arriving and departing on time — Tommy’s work has a direct impact on students’ performance and how successful they can be in school each day.
Looking back on how far he’s come, Tommy reflects, “The Education Pioneers Fellowship was the perfect way to make a transition from the private sector to the public sector that would set me up for success in the future.”