May 31, 2011

Meet The Staff: Nithya Johnson Says She's Inspired by Those Working For Change

Nithya Joseph is a member of the Outreach team at StudentsFirst, working to engage and mobilize members to advocate for education reform across the country. Prior to joining StudentsFirst, she worked briefly at the Academy of Educational Development, and later in the Office of Out-of-School Time at DC Public Schools. Most recently she was at the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, where she managed city-wide summer programming. Nithya received a Masters in Public Policy with a focus in education from the Georgetown Public Policy Institute.
As an Outreach Specialist for StudentsFirst, I have the incredible opportunity to interact and engage with members of StudentsFirst across the country. It is my responsibility to mobilize and spread awareness of the movement to our members, both existing and potential. But after several months working here, I would say it’s hardly a responsibility; rather it is an opportunity to be inspired every day.
Like my colleagues and most StudentsFirst members, my passion for education reform stems back years. I was an afterschool teacher in several different schools, working in an array of settings with students in upper middle class neighborhoods to lower income areas in San Diego, in both private and public schools. The schools and communities may have varied, but one thing was always consistent: the ability of my students to learn and to be inspired by their lessons.
Since that time, I focused my studies in the education sector; learning more intensively about the structural inequities facing our public school system, I became overwhelmed by the urgency of the challenges facing our schools and students. I have held different roles in various organizations, but I have never been so fulfilled as I am now. I speak to teachers, parents, concerned citizens, and students every day who tell me personal stories that never cease to amaze me. And just like my time working in afterschool programs, I find that while the members are vastly diverse and their stories are all so different, one thing is always consistent: the determination to advocate for children and the frustration with the challenges their schools and children face within the current system.
I speak with fathers and mothers who are relentlessly trying to find options of quality schools for their children; with teachers who want to see the system reformed because the thought of their students not having a continued, quality education is absolutely unacceptable; with students who want to see their most devoted teachers celebrated and rewarded. Our members inspire me and fuel my dedication to this work.
My passion for this work is not unique. My sense of urgency for this crisis is not distinct, and my desire to be a part of a movement to change a system so that all students have a fair shot at being successful is absolutely not rare. That is an incredibly comforting thing.

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