Impacting the Next Generation of Leaders: The Education Pioneers Summer Fellowship Experience

Apr 08, 2020
Aiyana (third from left) at a reception with her 2018 Denver EP fellowship cohort

The Education Pioneers Summer Fellowship is for professionals who are eager to discover how to use their expertise in data, operations, policy, and more to make a difference in the lives of students and families outside the classroom. The 10-week Summer Fellowship previews the impact you can make in the education sector to lay out the foundation for lifelong leadership in education. The program supports educational equity while also advancing careers.

We talked to Aiyana Hamilton, a 2018 Education Pioneer Fellow, to learn more about the program and get some application tips.

1.   What inspired you to apply for the Education Pioneers Summer Fellowship?

Prior to working in the education sector, I worked in the private sector as a Project Manager, with a focus on Event Management within Corporate Event Planning. In 2012, I relocated from New York City to Cleveland, OH where I was hired as the Project Manager of the Closing The Achievement Gap (CTAG) Program at Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). The position at CMSD was a career change for me. It was my first position working as a professional in the education sector. 

CMSD helped form the direction of my graduate school pursuits and ultimately prepared me for my time with Education Pioneers (EP). In 2017, I enrolled in a full-time master’s program at Northern Illinois University where I completed an M.S.Ed. in Higher Education Administration. I was introduced to EP through a former colleague at CMSD who was familiar with EP through her Ph.D. studies at Harvard University.

I researched the organization and made a mental note to consider applying for their summer fellowship program during my graduate studies. Of the fellowship’s four priority areas, my transferable skill set was applicable in program and project management, but I also desired to learn more about strategy and planning. Additionally, I viewed EP as an exceptional opportunity to strengthen my leadership skills and connect with other educators and leaders who are committed to education reform.

Aiyana (center), celebrating her birthday with EP Fellow Kay Contreras and The Denver Foundation college interns

2.   How has the fellowship experience influenced your current work?

Prior to my EP Summer Fellowship, I worked in the K-12 sector. My responsibilities as a Project Manager of CTAG included managing fiscal planning that impacted nine partnering high schools under a 1.6 million dollar grant. Among other key responsibilities, I created strategic and reporting processes to align with goals, determined objectives and accuracy of data, negotiated vendor contracts and implemented logistics for workshops on leadership, teambuilding, social and emotional learning competencies and communication skills to prepare eighth-grade students for a successful transition into high school. I experienced challenges working in the public education system, but it was very rewarding to know I was impacting the next generation of leaders.

As an EP Fellow, I was placed at The Denver Foundation. It was a privilege to work under the leadership of Collinus Newsome, Director of Education. Collinus was fortunate to have 2 EP Summer Fellows, Kay Contreras and myself. Although we worked on different projects, we worked well as a team! Collinus was strategic in placing EP Fellows into roles where our skillsets could be utilized and valued. She ensured we were highly visible so that we could engage with key stakeholders and community constituents. My projects included transitioning the Make Your Mark Initiative (MYM) into a 501c3-status organization. I was able to participate in the writing process to examine and reevaluate the strategic plan for MYM to recruit and retain more educators of color to the Denver area. I co-designed working sessions with the MYM Steering Committee to craft a comprehensive 1-year roadmap for implementation, and conducted research by reviewing recruitment policies, attrition data, and focus group interviews to identify areas of opportunity for retaining more educators of color to the Denver area.  

All of these experiences have brought me to where I am today and continue to be influential as I refine my career goals. My experience and passion are both rooted in impacting students at the intersectionality of career readiness and education. I want to connect students to integrated learning experiences (i.e. internships, fellowships, co-op, etc.), resources, people and organizations that will positively impact their lives to help them develop and transition into their career aspirations. 

3.  What tips would you give others applying to the Education Pioneers Summer Fellowship?

In the spring semester of 2018, I applied to EP and went through a rigorous interview process. Since I was a non-traditional graduate student, it had been several years since I had applied to fellowship programs. I asked the Director of Career Services Planning & Assessments and an Associate Professor at Northern Illinois University to prepare me as I advanced to each round. They provided me feedback on my application, reviewed drafts, conducted mock interviews, etc. I knew EP’s Summer Fellowship was nationally recognized and wanted to showcase the most composed and comprehensive presentation of myself as a viable candidate. I believe my preparation, work experience, passion and desire to evolve into a transformational leader within education were major impetuses in my being selected as an EP Summer Fellow.

Aiyana Hamilton currently serves as a Program Coordinator to Cleveland State University’s True2U College Bound Program. She has an M.S.Ed. in Adult & Higher Education from Northern Illinois University and a B.S. in Healthcare Administration from Eastern Michigan University. Her passion to pursue educational leadership was further developed with her experience both as a graduate assistant for NIU’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and as a Summer Fellow for Education Pioneers. 

Interested in applying? Bookmark Education Pioneers Summer Fellowship your ProFellow account.

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