Edith Rahimian (TFA Houston '05) learned early on how different school can be just based on five numbers — a zip code. From that moment, she knew she wanted to make sure all students have access to a quality education, and that parents have the knowledge and resources to make that a reality for their kids.
Explain what led you to care deeply about educational equity. What personal values, experiences or beliefs inform this?
When I was growing up and in school, I never understood why my parents were making the extreme sacrifices that they made for me to go to a school in a neighborhood we could not afford to live in. It wasn’t until I began mentoring a middle school student in Tucson that I recognized the difference that existed between her school and my school, simply because of the zip code. It infuriated me!
Since then, I have worked to ensure that all students, despite their zip code and background, have access to high-quality education and opportunities.
How has LEE helped you in your mission to end educational inequity?
LEE has helped me in my mission to end educational inequity by connecting me to different networks of people. Additionally, attending workshops like the National Organizing Workshop and the First-Generation/Immigrant Political Program have provided me with the skills, tools and confidence I need to continue to push through in this field.
As a first-generation immigrant, I often stay in the shadows because I don’t see many people who are like me in this field. However, the programs I attended and the connections I made have given me the confidence that I need to realize my potential and view my background as a first-generation immigrant as an asset instead of a deficit.
Tell us about your current role. What’s a typical day like? What is the impact you’re having on educational equity?
I recently started a new position at Children at Risk in Houston. Most of my work is focused on partnering with nonprofit organizations that work directly with parents. My work helps ensure these organizations have the resources and research needed to provide quality services to families. Right now, I am working on a project to ensure that parents know what quality education is and how they can impact their children’s access to quality education.
Prior to this role, I worked at YES Prep Public Schools where I made significant connections with families and students. Over the 9 years at YES Prep, both as a teacher and as an administrator, I worked with over 3,000 students and families.
My work, particularly with families, helped me better understand the issues facing families in Houston, which is influencing the work that I am doing with Children at Risk. I have the opportunity with Children at Risk to help influence educational inequity and the barriers influencing access to quality education through research and policy.
What is your vision for ending educational inequity in the U.S.?
If we want to end educational inequity, we have to change policy and the way in which policy is influenced. This work needs to be about what is truly in the best interest of ALL children, not just some.
We have to do a better job of educating parents and helping them become vocal advocates for change. I believe we can make the impact necessary if we can create an army of parents to continuously push for changes that our schools and education system need.
My role is to provide parents with the tools and resources they need to empower themselves to become advocates for change and drive improvement.
What do you see as your role in achieving this vision?
I see myself playing two roles in this work. First, I see myself as someone who can connect parents to the “system,” the data and the research. This way, they understand the state of education and their schools, the inequity in the gaps that exist, and their role in activating change. I envision a future where parents are empowered to rise up and push for change at the local and state level.
My second role is to utilize what I have learned through my experiences to continue to push for positive change for our most vulnerable population: our children.