Growing up in Northeast Texas, Fatema Basrai thought all public schools were supposed to be the same. By the time she made it to college, Fatema realized that was not the case. She recognized how far behind she was in comparison to her peers at the University of Texas at Austin. Her rural, underfunded school did not offer advanced classes. It often lacked a guidance counselor. She was left to navigate this new space on her own.
Fatema joined Teach For America in San Antonio. With a shared experience in high-needs Texas schools, Fatema identified with the needs of her students. She leveraged data and analysis to advance her third-grade students by two grade levels in reading, but knew that she needed to bring this experience at a systemic level in order to enact sustainable change.
Fatema decided to leave the classroom and deepen her experience in educational advocacy through community organizing, working with other LEE members to launch San Antonio Rising in Solidarity for Equity — a grassroots group fighting for educational equity — and broaden her reach in San Antonio as the executive director of Leadership SAISD, a 9-month program to engage community members as thought-leaders around education.
Fatema was able to build partnerships at the intersection of policy, advocacy, and organizing, eventually positioning herself as a staple in San Antonio. In 2017, her community recognized the integral role Fatema played in this ecosystem and the value of her deep experience in educational equity and she was appointed to San Antonio Independent School District’s Bond Citizens Advisory committee and voted to be a vice-chairperson. In this role, she helps to oversee projects funded by a $450 million dollar bond. She knew serving on the committee was a powerful way to ensure that policies impacting schools and communities are taking into account the real-life experiences of students and families.
It was her own personal initiative, drive, and relentless motivation to dig deeper into educational advocacy that enabled Fatema to secure her appointed role. Equipped with classroom, advocacy, and community organizing experience, Fatema saw the appointed position as an opportunity to leverage her expertise. She took careful steps to build the right relationships, tapping into her network, and seeking the leadership development support from a LEE coach to stand out as the right candidate for the role.
Do you want to make an impact in your community through a board or appointed role? Find out about the options available in your region, get guidance on navigating the appointment process, and work with a coach as you prepare to secure an appointed role — apply by September 26 to join the Board & Commission Appointments Cohort.