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FraLEE’s Note: Where We Stand

LEE’s senior advisor Mark Fraley’s new blog series, FraLEE’s Note, is dedicated to sharing stories of LEE members doing amazing work on behalf of students in communities across the nation.

“You know what really freaks me out about LEE?”

LEE member, Morandi, spoke those words to South Dakota Regional Director Matt Kull as LEE members lingered about her home after the house meeting she organized finished. I have to admit my ears perked up and as I began to eavesdrop, Matt said, “Mark, you’re going to have to be a part of this conversation.”

But that opening phrase, sums up how I have felt after two weeks on the road spending time with LEE’s Louisiana Regional Director Thomas Beer in New Orleans and Baton Rouge and with Matt Kull and Senior Director of Regional Impact Jamaal Nelson on the Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations in South Dakota. My answer to those questions returns to a common theme for these notes…the potential leadership of our members.

Dave, a TFA staff member, a Lakota leader, and a father, inspires me. He traveled with other parents from Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations to Denver to experience high performing schools. A week later, Dave participated in the Oakland National Organizing Workshop, or NOW.

When he returned, he watched a liberal/conservative coalition in the South Dakota legislature defeat an education measure he hoped would benefit his community. From what I have been told, Dave gathered his dejected colleagues, referenced the outstanding schools he saw and the training he received and in his solemn, joyful manner said, “It is time to organize.”

Thomas and I were jolted to life in a quiet, corner coffee house in the Treme neighborhood in New Orleans by the energy and passion of Aaron. This fourth year middle school teacher excitedly shared the critical policies he would fight for to improve the lives of his students in their schools and neighborhoods if he has the chance to serve in elected office.

In the midst of this passionate wonkiness, Thomas probed why these policies held such value for our member. Aaron, then slowed down, looked closely at us and shared the policies which changed his life in the community where he grew up. Food programs ensured he had food on the table. Government scholarships meant he had the funds to take the ACT and SAT.

Matt Kull’s LEE “mobile office” in South Dakota.

In addition, a great teacher turned his life around by helping him grow five academic grades in one year. In explaining his thoughts about running for office one day, he wondered aloud why someone would want to serve in public office not wanting to make these things possible.

Thinking about my time with each of these members motivates me deeply.

So, you know what freaks me out about LEE?

Thoughtful, passionate women and men committed to creating educational equity for every child in this nation. And actually doing something about it.

It is time to organize