Love was in the air even before Valentine’s Day, when Yass Prize awardees and alumni reunited in Washington DC for two jam-packed days to fill the hearts and minds of members of Congress, Governors and their teams with their views on what it takes to foster an environment of innovation, opportunity and success for the nation’s students.
Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Roger Marshall (R-KS) – sporting a Chiefs jersey! – along with the senior staffers from the offices of Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Congressman John Larson (D-CT1) and many others listened intently as the top education innovators spoke about their experiences, the barriers that Congress could alleviate and the successes they could amplify.
“We have parents donating plasma and working the night shift just to afford tuition,” said SOAR Academy’s Kenisha Skaggs of Augusta, GA, and a 2022 Yass Prize finalist.
“I could say I’m a drop out but I say I’m a take out because I was taken out of my home by escorts that were hired because I was a really bad kid. I was kicked out of schools,” said Oakmont winner and VP Cris-Gullacy Worrel whose schools excel at serving precisely students like her. “I remember thinking…I don’t want this to happen to other kids.”
“Tell your story, tell your story, and then tell your story again. Keep telling your story. Hug a kid today, tomorrow and make a difference one kid at a time. And be that word of encouragement.” said Chief’s Fan Senator Marshall. Cassidy, the Ranking Member of the Senate HELP Committee added, “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. There is opportunity for bipartisanship and we will make something happen in this Congress.”
The real laboratory of Democracy. The finalists then proceeded to spend their next two days engaging with some of the Nation’s Governors who were in town for their first convening since being sworn into office. These chief executives were highly receptive to the message of allowing and supporting multiple approaches to educating kids, especially Iowa’s Kim Reynolds, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, Tennessee’s Bill Lee and Oklahoma’s Kevin Stitt, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s chief of staff, among others.
You Oughta Be in Pictures. To magnify their impact, seven members of the 2022 Yass Prize cohort went “in Piazza,” with Jeanne Allen to explore their efforts and reach more people with the important message that education entrepreneurs are alive and well – if we could just stay out of their way, empower families to find them and motivate policymakers to ensure the environments exist for them to do all of the above.
Education 10.0 takes the audience through the power of high tech driven financial literacy, microschooling and what innovative districts look like while the Phoenix Effect draws from the experiences of four individuals whose own rise from difficult circumstances compelled them to create their own personalized pathways for students with varied approaches.
You’ll want to watch them on YouTube here and subscribe to In Piazza wherever you get your podcasts
“What I have learned through this whole process is that there are these beautiful people that have put their whole heart and soul into helping kids,” said Cory Steiner, Superintendent of the Northern Cass School District in North Dakota. “It’s all about what we can do to use our collective powers to try and do better for kids.”