Reflecting on my Background and Values

During my K-12 education I attended five different schools each with unique funding sources and demographics. My experience with these diverse institutions sparked an interest in educational pedagogy and the role outside forces play in impacting academic achievement. I was consistently amazed by the similarity of instruction, but difference in academic achievement. Ultimately, these schools led me to Ohio State to study special education and nonprofit management. My interest in education stems from the role it can play in community development and strengthening my understanding of myself, others, and my world. 

While attending public school I never questioned the rules and norms that were imposed on my fellow classmates and I as elementary students. However, things changed when I found myself in a new learning community at the start of 6th grade. My private middle school, Leaves of Learning, challenged my idea of what it meant to be a school. The students in my classes were not always my age, my teachers lacked education degrees, and I only attended the program for 14.5 hours a week. My experience as a student was very different from what I had become accustomed to, but nonetheless I thrived in my coursework. For the first time I was surrounded by people who always loved to be at school. 

When I left Leaves of Learning to move to a wealthy Columbus suburb, Bexley, my parents were concerned that I would be behind my peers in academics. However, we quickly found that to be the opposite. At Leaves of Learning students were trusted with being responsible for themselves and classes were taught for the purpose of learning and enjoyment. High test scores were never the goal. At Bexley it was clear that the same priorities had not been stressed. My peers struggled with independent notetaking and retaining information from previous courses. My time at Leaves of Learning taught me that working smarter is better than working harder and that tradition needs to be questioned. It inspired a great interest in teaching and the role of the nonpublic sector in spearheading innovation and reform in education.    

While a freshman in high school I volunteered for a local nonprofit child care and family services organization, Columbus Early Learning Centers (CELC). I later joined the team through a paid position as an office assistant. This experience challenged my ideas of what a “charity” is and should be. Up until this point in my life when I pictured nonprofits I thought of homeless shelters and food banks. I quickly found that many charities including CELC were complicated businesses with elaborate plans and overhead staff.

I consider efficiency to be one of my strongest held values. This was instilled in me by example at CELC. Helping children in the early years of development is the most efficient way to positively change a person’s life. A dollar invested in the first five years yields a rate of return of 14 to 17%. This is because a child’s brain is being built in the beginning of  their life. It is much easier to build strong brains than rehab damaged ones. I have a great interest in working for youth and family causes as I know it is the most efficient and just way to help a person and a community.  

My experience with these organizations instilled values of innovation and efficiency that led me to pursue a career in community development and education reform. However, what I have taken from these experiences and organizations expands beyond my academic and professional realms. The values that I have been taught by these groups have a constant presence in my interactions with myself and my world. I am grateful to have learned from a rich and diverse community that has given me the tools to be an informed, well-rounded community member.

My Personal Theory of Change

Statement of Reality 

America is unable to support children and families, particularly in the years before a child enters kindergarten. A tattered network of limited parental leave policy, inconsistent child care regulations, and a patchwork of expensive preschool options has created the current system that squanders children’s potential and puts an undue burden on parents. Subsequently, children and adults are not happy. Parents do not feel adequately supported in their parenthood journey which in turn causes the declining birth rate. American children underperform other students in similarly developed nations in elementary school and beyond. We are committing an injustice to our youth in the short term and hurting our entire nation in the long term. The state of young children is an issue that affects every other social and environmental problem as the solvers of these problems will have been children at the beginning of their life. For better or worse, children grow up to be adults. The role they play in their communities is driven by their childhood.

Desired Future

In an ideal world parents would be supported, children’s development would be respected, and community would be at the heart of how children and families are cared for. All adults would be given the tools to make an informed decision about becoming parents. Those who choose to do so would feel supported and prepared by their community. Families would be given the opportunity to make the best choice for how they care for the child; all options would support the child’s healthy development. Children would grow up to be well rounded adults that have each met their potential.

Theory of Change 

In order to achieve this reality social change needs to occur through government policy and in civil society. On the political side of things parental leave policies would need to be put in place similar to those in other developed nations. Comprehensive sex education needs to be a part of high school curriculums, and affordable effective contraceptives need to be accessible for all body types. Additionally, comprehensive parenting and child development should also be required in high school. Teens and adults should be able to make a decision about becoming parents and prepared to do so if they choose to. Without proper education, people only know how to parent in the way they were parented. This creates a great injustice for those who are victims of generational poverty. The current network of high-quality evidence based early childhood education and care programs need to be radically expanded with increased government funding. The vast majority of current childcare programs need to be improved through increased funding and workforce development initiatives. All efforts must work in the interests of children, guardians, and program staff. Failure to do so will create change that is not sustainable in the long term.

Exploring Columbus with my Mentee

As a part of my experience as an Advocates for Communities and Education Scholar I participate in a second year capstone project to complete the program. As previously discussed on this page, I am mentoring a freshmen ACES scholar as they transition to OSU. My mentee, Payton, and I got together to explore Columbus and our interests on a cold evening in November.

When initialing being paired, Payton and I both spoke of our interests in fashion and sustainability. I thought that visiting a local thrift shop might be good for our “Explore Columbus” assignment. After speaking with Payton I knew just where to go!

In earlier conversations Payton had mentioned that her older sister who attends OSU loved to thrift shop in Columbus, but that she herself hadn’t had the chance to try it yet. Coming from a small hometown, Payton said that there were few second hand stores that she could shop at it. She said that she was excited to try thrifting in Columbus, but that she felt a little overwhelmed. I told her I would be happy to show her around as I have been living and thrifting in Columbus for going on six years.

We decided to go to the Goodwill on N High St, per my recommendation. The shop is one of the closest to campus, right off of the bus line, and cheaper than the stores in the Short North. Additionally, Payton hadn’t been to Old North Columbus yet. I know as a freshmen people told me a lot about Short North and German Village, but rarely spoke of the neighborhoods North of Campus. I though getting “out” and “up” could be helpful for Payton, and I was eager to chare my favorite Columbus neighborhood with her.

We met at the Ohio Union and crossed the street to the COTA stop in front of Midway. While at the bus stop we discussed what was new in Payton’s life and on the fifth floor of Smeeb. We waited in the cold until the number 2 bus finally arrived. It was Payton’s first time riding the city bus. Although it was a little unusual due to COVID-19 restrictions I explained to her how it worked and how simple it was to get around town using just your Buck-id. I did warn her of the frequency of delays and how quickly ETAs could change. On the ride we discussed Old North and the neighborhoods around campus. I pointed out the townhouse I am going to live in next year and we discussed off campus housing options, as there is a lot more choice and planning involved than underclassmen dorm housing.

After riding the bus up High Street we hopped off the Hudson stop, conveniently right in front of the Goodwill we were headed to. We hurried inside to get out of the late autumn cold. While there we wondered the aisles looking for someone else’s trash that was soon to be our new treasure. We thumbed through racks of clothes looking for the cutest, ugliest, and strangest things we could fine. We each found a top that we were happy to add to our wardrobe. After paying at the register we ventured back outside to wait for our bus. We rode the mile back to the Ohio Union where we had started our evening.

I think thrifting is a great way to explore a city. It’s cheap, accessible, and you can tell a lot about a community by the clothes and home goods they use and give away. The Goodwill in Old North is an excellent choice to shop at as it is right off of two bus lines and next to a lot of other Columbus hidden gems. Across the intersection is Jack and Benny’s, a fantastic breakfast spot serving classic diner cuisine. Up the the block is Ace of Cups, a really cool music venue in a converted bank. One of my favorite pizza places in the city, Hound Dogs, is just another block North.

I recommend a trip to Old North especially to Goodwill for other scholars that have an interest in clothes and/or secondhand shopping. It’s an excellent way to get out into the neighborhoods that students have the option to live in as juniors and seniors. Exploring the different neighborhoods around campus made the apartment hunting search easier for me because I really new what I was getting into. It’s never to early to start experiencing Columbus outside of the 43210.

The Goodwill on the Corner of Hudson Ave. and High St.