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LEE Fellowship helps identify new career path

  • Jasma Jones: Community Organizing Fellow
    LEE's Community Organizing Fellowship

As a Teach for America corps member in my hometown of St. Louis, I relished witnessing my students, their siblings and even my younger cousins growing and developing. But I still felt the need to pursue a different role, outside of the classroom, where I could learn how to effect change more broadly for my community.

After my second year of teaching, I moved to Chicago in 2012 to explore opportunities in the education reform sector. The following year, I attended a LEE workshop where I learned about what I thought sounded like a captivating and emboldening career path: community organizing. I was excited about the approach because it offered a concrete framework I had been seeking to fight the many injustices that I believe existed in my community growing up, including access to quality schools, jobs and social services. I was thrilled about the role of community organizing in connecting people in my community with the resources that could help them advance.

It was at the same gathering that I heard about LEE’s Community Organizing Fellowship, which offers members an opportunity to work for three to six months with major networks or organizations that are focused on rallying communities to effect change.  I applied and was accepted. 

My fellowship was with the Chicago office of Stand for Children, a national education advocacy organization dedicated to improving public schools and closing the achievement gap. It was an invaluable experience, where I learned the basics of community organizing – how to recruit, train and mobilize advocates – while working on complex projects. One of the most interesting efforts I was a part of helped parents better communicate with and work alongside school leaders to improve academic outcomes for all students. In one case, 33 percent of the parents at a new charter school signed up for the program. Those volunteer parents went on to champion a candidate who advocated for the charter school community – and because of parents’ support, he continued to fight for charter schools in the midst of a very hostile legislative environment.

Towards the end of my fellowship, LEE again supported me by providing guidance as I sought another position in education reform. I ultimately landed at the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, where I work with Chicago parents to advocate on behalf of the charter community. 

I now feel I’m in a professional role that aligns with my passion. LEE’s Community Organizing Fellowship was instrumental in getting me here – it was a great opportunity and a key part of my professional journey.

About LEE's Community Organizing Fellowship:
Across the country, organizers are working to connect parents, teachers, students and more to take collective action on behalf of kids. LEE's Community Organizing Fellowship helps members who are recent alumni or corps members gain valuable experience organizing communities through a paid, three to six month full-time fellowship with a major community organizing network or organization. Fellows will acquire the proven skills of community organizing while directly impacting policy for kids and benefit from professional development and networking opportunities with other fellows and national experts. We believe that thoughtful and skilled organizing is a critical lever in the work to achieve educational equity.

The application deadline for this year's Community Organizing Fellowship has now passed, but please feel free to check out our Community Organizing Fellowship page, which will be updated with information regarding next year's fellowship opportunity as it approaches.