Fighting Poverty with Passion
The primary focus this month at OPEN was getting the Education Policy Fellowship Program up and running. The EPFP is for mid-career executive level professionals who are committed to improving education outcomes for youth through policy. The 10-month series of colloquiums are to serve as an opportunity to network and come up with collaborative solutions across boundaries of race and culture, discipline, economic interest, political stance, and unity of government. EPFP has been around since 1964, having produced nearly 8,000 alumni who now lead at high levels in all sectors. This year, OPEN is determined to bring it to the communities in Louisiana to join 13 other states in America.
The recruitment process is a tough one, and this year is OPEN’s second attempt at building an inaugural cohort of 15 applicants. I have been working hard this month in outreach: building a list of hundreds of contacts across Louisiana, finding their contact information, calling them, emailing them, and putting together information packets for a hard mail-out. The most difficult part of the project is getting in touch with the right applicants. Oftentimes, our targeted elected officials, C.E.Os of local businesses, and superintendents of high education are hard to reach. Another major challenge is the cost of the fellowship program, which including travel expenses, is not easy to overcome by institutions that are already struggling with funding for education. Sadder yet, are the rude responses I occasionally receive from elected officials who supposedly “champion education”. I am sad to report that one official not only declined but adamantly refused to help refer other folks in the office who might benefit from the fellowship, “lest he be found face-down in a river”. I’m not sure where the animosity stems from, but I sincerely hope that such indifference and cynicism is a minority opinion in the city. On the bright side, we have strong support in our advisory council, representatives from Liberty Bank, Committee for a Better Louisiana, Education Research Alliance, Loyola Institute of Politics One Voice Louisiana, and Education’s Next Horizon. These concerned leaders make me hopeful that EPFP will be successful in Louisiana, in time. I am excited to have contributed to this project of drawing together our state’s most influential leaders, and I am optimistic that this fellowship will add depth and perspective to the ongoing issues in education. I am happy to say that we have received 10 applicants and with one more webinar, and a few more weeks of outreach, we might have our first EPFP in Louisiana.