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Fatema Basrai: Building a coalition of champions for educational equity

Fatema Basrai (TFA San Antionio - 2012) knew she could be helping more kids than just the ones in her classroom, and wanted to do that through organizing, policy and advocacy. So she participated in a variety of LEE programs including the Diversity in Public Leadership Series and the Women's Political Leadership Program to her help make an impact for kids across San Antonio. 

Explain what led you to care deeply about educational equity. What personal values, experiences or beliefs inform this?

My experience with educational inequity began with my high school education at an underfunded rural school in Northeast Texas. My school did not offer AP or advanced classes and for much of my high  school career, we did not have a guidance counselor. As a first-generation American college student, I had to figure a lot of things out on my own. 

When I began my studies at The University of Texas at Austin, I recognized how far behind I was compared to my peers who attended public high school in wealthier districts. In my mind, all public schools were supposed to be the same, however, that was not the case. 

My personal experience led me to join Teach for America. I became a third grade teacher in the heart of West Side in San Antonio. Teaching students in San Antonio’s worst-performing elementary school had a profound impact on me. While I was able to leverage data and analysis to strengthen my lesson plans and advance a majority of my third graders by at least two grade levels in reading, I realized that I could have a bigger impact on these children’s education by enacting systems of change outside of the classroom.
 
How has LEE helped you in your mission to end educational inequity? 

LEE has been instrumental in my career and personal development. I learned to appreciate my unique identity and skills through numerous LEE trainings. I have learned how to be a community organizer through my time with SA RISE, our San Antonio Regional Strategy team. And I have met amazing individuals who continue to support and challenge me. In fact, my LEE Regional Director and my LEE Coach convinced me to apply for roles that I would not have considered otherwise. I didn’t believe in myself, but they believed in me.
 
Tell us about your current role. What’s a typical day like? What is the impact you’re having on educational equity? 

As the Executive Director of Leadership SAISD, I run our community’s only Leadership Development program focused on understanding and advocating for education. LSAISD had graduated over 120 participants and, this year, we will have 30 more. I am developing the curriculum for our current class and because of my training with LEE, race, diversity, and equity will play a big role.
 
What is your vision for ending educational inequity in the U.S.? 

I believe that educational inequity in the US can end when all members of our communities feel responsible for educational outcomes. I believe that this is possible through community engagement and organizing. This is why I strongly support LEE.
 
What do you see as your role in achieving this vision? 

I love my role right now as it allows me to work at the intersection of community organizing, policy and advocacy. I foresee myself continuously developing to deepen my knowledge, and I know that LEE training and coaching will be an integral part of that development.