Jen Baca (TFA Detroit '10) has spent years working to change the education landscape. And through the LEE Public Leaders Fellowship (LPLF), she was able to refine her vision and develop strategies to make it a reality.
How has LEE helped shape your career trajectory?
LEE has been a great resource for me. Through LEE, I've been connected to inspiring peers locally and across the nation who are moving and shaking in amazing ways. These peers have turned into great friends and allies in the work. I've attended LEE's trainings on organizing and policy, and local LEE events that have connected us to elected leaders.
However, LEE's fellowships are where it's truly at. The Policy and Advocacy Summer Fellowship kick-started my now seven-year career organizing in the education and political communities. This past year, I participated in the LEE Public Leaders Fellowship (LPLF), where I was coached and supported in creating my mission and vision for change. LPLF helped me identify how I would actualize my vision.
How has LEE programming helped you think differently about diversity, equity, and inclusion in your life or work?
LPLF pushed me to reflect on the role I am playing, and the role I am not playing in ending oppression in my professional and personal life. I often would remain silent because I didn't know how to interrupt situations and felt like it wasn't my responsibility to "teach" others about their role in racial justice. Now, I am reminded by Audre Lorde's quote: "your silence will not protect you." I have come to realize that we ALL have a role to play in this work. It will take everybody to make these mindset and action shifts to truly restore communities that have been marginalized for far too long.
After your experience with LEE programming, have you implemented a new practice or taken an action that increased diversity, equity, and/or inclusion in your life or work?
Since my LPLF journey, I have led and facilitated Diversity and Inclusion Professional Development workshops, and have become a founding member of the Diversity and Inclusion committee at my local office.
What role do you believe people most directly impacted by educational inequity should play in identifying or leading towards solutions?
I'm a big proponent of those from the community leading the movement. Too often, you see grass-top efforts that are disconnected from the needs and understanding of a community. I'd like to see more organizations activate those who they are attempting to serve and uplift their voices into grass-top conversations. If you're on the menu, you should have a seat at the table.
Jen was a 2017 LEE Public Leaders Fellow.
Applications for the LEE Public Leaders Fellowship are currently being accepted. If you are an experienced LEE member with a track record of impact and an interest in social justice looking to transition into a new or different role in policy, advocacy, organizing or elected leadership, APPLY TODAY.