Today, I am thrilled to step into the role of chair of the national board of directors at 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now. Together we will advocate for a high-quality education for all kids, regardless of their address.

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I want to take a moment to thank my predecessor on the board, former chair Sandra Vargas. Sandy has served as the board chair at 50CAN for the past three years, and she has helped transform the organization into the growing network that it is today. Her passion and commitment have been inspiring, and I wish her a joyous and peaceful retirement.

I would also like to welcome new board member Campbell Brown, head of news partnerships at Facebook and founder of 50CAN affiliate Partnership for Educational Justice. Campbell has long been a fierce advocate for kids, and her energy and vision will be a great asset to our organization.

The American framework of education must change. From the grassroots of community to the tree tops of policy, I envision a culture shift driven by our conscience to change that framework for the benefit of all kids. 50CAN is uniting the voices of citizen advocates and empowering them with the tools to champion more equitable schools in every state in our network. More voices can change the trajectory of student lives.

As the pastor of a church in West Baltimore, I have seen firsthand the challenges our young people face in trying to attain a high-quality education and a meaningful career. I am excited to bring my experiences and insights to the work of 50CAN and look forward to amplifying the voices of other community leaders across the country.

The work of the 50CAN network spans across the country, from helping community members launch advocacy projects to running statewide policy campaigns to publishing research reports and everything in between. I first heard about 50CAN through their work in my home state of Maryland, where 50CAN leaders were celebrating schools in Baltimore that were beating the odds for low-income kids. I was moved by the work of the organization, and felt that Baltimore could help tell an inspiring story of the future of education.

In 2017, I worked with Baltimore families to create Faith Leaders for Excellent Schools, an affiliate of the 50CAN network. The mission of FLES is to eradicate educational inequity in Baltimore through school partnerships with faith-based entities, organizing and policy reform to ensure that all students achieve excellent outcomes. We became an affiliate of 50CAN so that we can draw upon the resources of the network to fight for kids in the Charm City and engage the faith community with advocacy tools.

The time is now for parents, students and community members to come together to create lasting change in the education systems across the country. I look forward to the work ahead of us and learning and growing together.


Pastor Michael Phillips is the chair of the national board of directors at 50CAN. He is also the senior pastor at Kingdom Life Church in Baltimore, Maryland.


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