While the past two years have revealed stark inequities in the traditional education system, we have also seen elements of a new, more dynamic, learner-centered future present themselves. This once- in-a-century challenge is also a once-in-a-century opportunity, one where we can renew our commitment to be policy leaders in building a better, more just education system where every child can become the best version of themselves.

At 50CAN, our mission is to support policymakers around the nation to ensure every child has access to a quality education. In this spirit, we are launching the inaugural class of the Believe in Better Education Leaders Fellowship to equip current and aspiring education policy leaders with the support they need to lead the way forward in their states as they build the school systems of the future.

The first cohort of this fellowship is limited to a small number of elected officials (8-10) chosen from the group of applicants. Participants will be part of an eight-session program that explores the challenges of the current system and the tools available to address these challenges, and then transitions to what a better future might be. There will also be sessions dedicated to specific areas of policy development, which are summarized here at 50CAN’s Believe in Better framework.

Seven of the sessions will be conducted in two-hour blocks via online instruction. One session will be a two-day in-person meeting. Travel expenses, if legally allowed, will be covered by 50CAN. The sessions will be engaging, collaborative and productive. Subject area experts and thought leaders will be part of each session, but the sessions will encourage interaction.

The fellowship will create a process for each participant to define their own vision for public education and help fellows shape a vision of the future of education in their own state. Fellows will also have the opportunity to learn from peers from around the country who want to lead in a similar way.

While 50CAN has policies that it advocates for, this fellowship is not designed to advance a specific policy agenda. It will reflect the values of 50CAN around boundaryless education, innovation and prioritizing the needs of individual children and families while providing a foundation that public officials can use to build their own agenda, customized to their own communities. Local leadership is at the core of our organizational philosophy and we believe that policy solutions need to be locally-driven.

Additionally, 50CAN is proudly non-partisan and the cohort will reflect this with elected officials from both sides of the political spectrum who share a common interest in education policy and a willingness to put partisan agendas aside for the sake of collaboration.

If you have any questions, please email fellowships@50can.org or contact Jonathan Nikkila at 308-224-4309.


Application Window Open Tuesday, March 1 – Sunday, May 1
Applicants Chosen Wednesday, April 20
Sessions Begin Wednesday, June 15 (Held every two weeks, subsequently)*
Sessions End Wednesday, September 14 (tentative)
* Due to the small, intimate nature of the fellowship, the class will have the opportunity to jointly set dates of the sessions at the outset. However, a participant may only miss two sessions and still complete the fellowship.

Fellowship At A Glance:

  • Do you desire to lead the next generation of education policy?
  • Do you want a stronger foundation in the history of education policy?
  • Do you want to interact at a high level with peers who share your interest and goals?
  • Eight session (one in-person) curriculum
    8-10 participants
  • Mid-June 2022 through Mid-September 2022
  • Applicants must be elected officials who impact education policy decisions
  • No cost if chosen to participate


“Change only happens when individuals choose to take a stand. This type of leadership is vital but it is also hard. At 50CAN, we want to help leaders have the foundation they need to effectively impact the education of children in their communities. Because of our experience managing fellowships, our long history of serving and interacting with elected officials on both sides of the aisle, and the broad network of experts we have access to, we are excited to offer this opportunity.”

-Derrell Bradford, President & Director of Fellowships at 50CAN




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