On Wednesday, September 11, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools honored eight African American leaders for raising the bar of excellence in public education and advancing student access to high-quality charter schools. The ceremony took place in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the CBC Foundation’s 49th Annual Legislative Conference. The master of ceremonies for the event was Joe Gorham of 96.3 WHUR FM radio with music provided by DJ Flava of 93.9 WKYS FM radio. “8 Black Hands” also recorded a live podcast with awardees and special guests.
The award ceremony is sponsored by the National Alliance, Diverse Charter Schools Coalition, Education Reform Now, KIPP Foundation, National Charter Collaborative, The 74, NAACP-DC chapter, Progressive Policy Institute, UNCF and Walton Family Foundation.
“These African American leaders serve as role models to all of us and exemplify what it looks like to use your platform, whether it’s a political stage or passion for students, to put the needs of students first,” said Ron C. Rice, senior director of government relations at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “There are 3.2 million charter school students across America that attend excellent public schools because of the education options these men and women have fought for.”
“I’ve always prioritized giving back through investing in public education and the rate at which Michigan was closing schools and opening jails was alarming,” said Jalen Rose, co-founder of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in Detroit, Michigan. “When it comes to educating students in our communities we need to lead from within. In my hometown there are so many decision makers that aren’t from Detroit, don’t live in Detroit and don’t have children in Detroit schools. How can we expect them to understand the needs of our students? This is just one of the reasons why I founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in the neighborhood I grew up in.”
The inaugural Trailblazer Award, given to Jalen Rose, was created to honor an individual or group that is not traditionally involved in education but has made a commitment to use their celebrity, status, wealth and/or brand towards the advancement of the community.
Jalen has gone beyond a simple investment in a “one-off” program or event and has chosen the road less traveled; to invest in an educational institution that will endure past his own lifetime for generations to come.
The National Charter Leadership Award honors African American charter school leaders and members of Congress who are spearheading the movement to offer parents and students high-quality public-school options. We specifically determine which school leaders receive the award based on their impact on students, their community, and being an exemplary model for the charter school sector.
Awardees from Wednesday’s ceremony were:
U.S. Representative William Lacy Clay (D-MO)
Congressman Clay has been a supporter of high-quality charter schools since he co-sponsored the bill as a state legislator to create Missouri’s charter school law.
U.S. Representative Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ)
Congressman Payne has supported increased federal funding dedicated to the expansion and replication of high-performing charter school models and schools that work.
U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
Congresswoman Jackson Lee has been at the forefront of ensuring the nearly 20,000 charter school students in her district receive the same support that traditional district schools do.
Jalen Rose: Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (MI)
Jalen is the recipient of the Trailblazer Award. He has used his celebrity status to found a school in his community that graduates 100 percent of their students and gets them all accepted into college.
Michael Carter: Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (MI)
Michael uses his skills as a businessman to prepare young minds for careers, not just jobs. Michael models how businesses should invest their talents in raising up students in urban communities.
Dominique Lee: BRICK Charter Schools (NJ)
Dominique has worked his way from teacher, to education policy expert, to charter school leader to the CEO of New Jersey’s first African American-led charter management organization.
Tysie McDowell-Ray: Crossroads Charter Schools (MO)
Tysie has built a school with innovation as its cornerstone. She received federal Charter School Program dollars based on her school’s performance and proven ability to close the achievement gap.
Lagra Newman: Purpose Preparatory Academy Charter School (TN)
Lagra is a shining example of a model millennial school leader in the 21st She runs one of the best performing schools in Nashville, Tennessee.