by Christopher Hann
You graduated from Harvard and worked in finance, but when you were 29 you left it all to pursue a master’s degree at the Theo School. Why? There was a disconnect between doing that work and coming home to the Bedford-Stuyvesant community [in Brooklyn, New York] every day. And seeing the gap between the haves and have-nots. I figured there must be another place I should serve and figure out how folks get lifted from where they are.
What was your plan when you graduated from the Theo School? Before I graduated I met up with the very dynamic Metro Industrial Areas Foundation. They showed me a type of localized action and power and leadership I hadn’t seen in anything I had done. I sort of begged them for the opportunity to do my supervised ministry in one of their organizations.
You had been working as a community organizer until last summer, when you were hired as director of family engagement and advocacy for the New York City Board of Education. What does that job entail? My work now is trying to further open the doors of the administration to the possibilities of improving academic success for kids when they involve community-based and faith-based organizations. One of my proudest moments was having the former schools chancellor, Cathleen Black, during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. week, sit down to coffee hour with 85 clergy over the course of four days and listen to them about the hopes they had to help kids and families in their communities with their educational needs. That was something I designed and developed that she did in her third week. With the prior schools chancellor, Joel Klein, I had begun a project called Education Congregation. These congregations [can] find ways [to] plug into education and support the achievement of students.
What’s the most striking thing you’ve learned about the school system you hadn’t known before? It’s complex to navigate. But it can be done.