Chris Gurley moved around a lot as a child, which exposed him to the diversity in the US school system. But it also showed him the disparities. The kind of disparities that, after four years in the classroom, he knew he wanted to change. While his impact in the classroom helped his students, he believed he could better serve them by working in education policy.
“I spent a year applying to different policy positions, but I wasn't able to get a job in the field,” he says. That’s when he applied for the Policy & Advocacy Summer Fellowship (PASF).
“This opportunity allowed me to work in the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) for seven weeks, and my team appreciated my work so much they hired me on full-time when the program concluded. LEE opened doors for me, professionally, that I was not able to open on my own. It is not an exaggeration to say I wouldn’t be in my current role without LEE.”
Today, Chris creates physical space for Pre-K through 3-K classes across the city as a member of the Expansion Team in the Division of Early Childhood Education at NYCDOE. He partners with district leaders to evaluate the need for Pre-K and 3-K seats in the district over time.
“This is very much the real-world side of policy that involves lots of time spent in the community working directly with members of the community. Our efforts are working to end educational inequity by creating free early childhood education opportunities where previously there were none.”
To Chris, there are two ways to combat educational equity: by expanding access to resources and through creative problem-solving. He is now able to focus on the one he believes he can be most impactful.
“Based on my life experience, I am most passionate about expanding access to resources. That is why I am so thrilled to be part of a team that is creating a resource for low-income families that never existed before. The benefits of free early childhood education are vast, and NYC’s poorest families are the ones who gain the most. Through PASF, I was able to make the transition to start effecting the change I want to see.”
Learn more about the Policy & Advocacy Summer Fellowship.
Chris Gurley was a 2013 Teach for America corps member in New York City.