Executive Director & Founder, P.S. 305
Yannell Selman grew up in a big Cuban family in Miami, Florida. She attended public schools throughout her life, graduating at the top of her class from an International Baccalaureate program. Despite receiving many fancy gold stars as a student in Miami’s public schools, Yannell was not ready for college. When she arrived at Northwestern University, she was unprepared academically and socially, launching her curiosity about and commitment to the cause of educational equity.
After college, Yannell joined Teach For America. She taught a bilingual second grade class at Lincoln Elementary in Richmond, California. Her students were all brilliant, and Yannell was saddened by how poorly the school was serving them. After realizing the alarming rate of principal and teacher turnover in her own school, Yannell became active in education policy and advocacy, leading to a job as a community organizer with the California Charter Schools Association. In that role, Yannell organized hundreds of low-income families to fight for systemic change, and those families went on to make big changes at the school, district and state level for charter and district students.
After years of teaching and organizing in San Jose, Oakland, Richmond and Sacramento, Yannell moved home to Miami in 2016 to launch P.S. 305, the first and only education advocacy organization in the city. In this role, Yannell is building a movement of thousands of parents, teachers, students and community members that are fighting for great schools for all kids in the nation’s fourth-largest district, Miami-Dade.
I aspire to be like Ella Baker. Here’s why:
Ella Baker was someone that led from behind. Despite her being one of the most powerful, effective and influential leaders in the civil rights movement, very few people know her name. She relentlessly lived out her belief that “strong people don’t need strong leaders” through her work. As a leader of the NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, she focused on uplifting the voices of those most impacted by injustice, never taking the spotlight for herself. Ella Baker recognized intersectionality early on, addressing classism and sexism within the civil rights movement, and working to dismantle oppression at all levels. Her role in supporting the Freedom Schools of the period directly inspires my work with P.S. 305 today.
Why I love my job:
I learn and grow everyday alongside the most inspirational people! Advocacy and organizing gives you such a unique opportunity to stay closely connected with both the schoolhouse and the statehouse. Meeting with incredible parents, teachers and students and connecting them to the systems that impact them is how I get to live out my values through my work, all the while building transformative relationships and making institutions more just.
My connection to public schools:
I have spent almost my entire life in public schools as a student, teacher and advocate!
What I’m bad at:
Many things, but most notably singing. That does not, however, prevent me from enthusiastically rapping the Hamilton musical at karaoke.
My six-year-old sister started kindergarten this year in Miami’s public schools. I have a deep sense of urgency to make sure that she does not face the same challenges I did in my educational journey. She inspires me to do better, push harder and work faster so that her and her 356,000 peers in Miami-Dade County Public Schools can benefit from P.S. 305’s work before it is too late.