This summer was an incredibly busy one for me. I took two online classes – Principles of Microeconomics and Washington at Work – Women, Power, and Politics. I received funding for a second undergraduate research assistantship with Dr. Brandy Bryson, doing research on the challenges and successes of faculty-led equity and inclusion initiatives. I started the preliminary research for my Honors thesis. Most importantly, however, I enjoyed my first summer in Washington, D.C. as a part of the D.C. Public Schools Urban Education Leaders Internship Program.
With DCPS, I was an intern with the Advanced and Enriched Instruction team within the Office of Teaching and Learning. Advanced and Enriched Instruction is focused primarily on increasing access to pre-AP and AP courses throughout the District, as well as increasing AP pass rates. In order to make sure that all students within DCPS have equitable access to an advanced and rigorous education, I conducted extensive research on best practices within advanced courses, as well as their effects on students, with a focus on eliminating the historic segregation of advanced courses in schools. I also had the opportunity to work with the DCPS summer enrichment program, helping to develop the curriculum, visiting students, teachers, and instructional coordinators at sites, and attending summer school committee meetings. Last but certainly not least, I was tasked with developing a new website for Advanced and Enriched Instruction to streamline resources for teachers, which required learning some basic coding and graphic design.
I was drawn to the UELIP program because I was excited about working within a large, urban school district and learning more about the ways that policy changes impact decisions made by educational leadership. Following my semester working with the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions as an education policy intern, and two previous summers as a teacher with Freedom Schools in Charlotte, North Carolina, working with DCPS served as a wonderful bridge between those two experiences to understand the work that goes into making equitable and effective schools, at all levels. I had the opportunity to spend my time meeting with DCPS teachers, administrators, project directors and office Chiefs within the Central Office, and even to meet Chancellor Wilson. I learned so much about different aspects of district leadership, from AP to Social Emotional Learning, equity to assessments, and I know that the value of the experience I had this summer will only grow throughout my professional career.
As always, I loved every second of living in D.C., and I had the chance to take part in so many wonderful programs which further developed my understanding of other political and social issues, some connected to education, and some not. The most significant of these experiences was two days at the Young Women Run Summit, where I joined hundreds of other young women for training and mentorship surrounding running for office. I heard from amazing speakers like Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and the 43rd Treasurer of the United States, Rosie Rios, and gained skills in speaking to the media, fundraising, and building a grassroots campaign. I also was accepted to the Next Generation Leaders Conference – Technology for Societal Change, put on by Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College and the Public Policy & International Affairs Program. That weekend culminated in a challenge to imagine uses of technology for education in the future, a competition that my team came in 2nd place for! Both of these experiences helped me to gain a stronger awareness of the intersectionality of policy issues for education, and the leadership roles that I may seek in my future. As always, I also spent much of my time at a number of the free art galleries around D.C., watching some D.C. United soccer, protesting in front of the Capitol building, and learning as much as I could from all the smart and passionate people around me in the city I love. I cannot wait to return to D.C. and continue to see the many ways that I can grow as an individual and have an impact on the issues that I care about in the future.
Written by: Sarah Aldridge