Congratulations, grads! The 50CAN family is thrilled to celebrate the graduates of the Education Advocacy Fellowship: Amanda Aragon, Arash Kamiar, Tish Johnson and Seth Saavedra.

Amanda Aragon and Seth Saavedra served as our first co-fellows in New Mexico, working to construct the foundation for the first robust education advocacy organization in the Land of Enchantment. Amanda and Seth utilized an expert communities strategy by launching and maintaining a blog that provided analysis and commentary on education issues in the state. After establishing a diverse coalition of stakeholders, completing a landscape analysis and writing a strategic plan, the fellows have successfully laid the foundation to launch a CAN organization in 2018.

Arash Kamiar joined the 50CAN fellowship from the Sunshine State of Florida. Arash capitalized on his professional background in communities, pursuing an expert communities strategy and developing a report on the state’s Title I funding. He also created a plan to convene charter schools serving large populations of students qualifying for Title I funding. In August, Arash was the initial author of a policy and advocacy blueprint that proposed a new path forward for the state. At the conclusion of his fellowship, Arash accepted the role of director of communications at the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.

Tish Johnson joined the 50CAN fellowship to focus on broadening the WeRaiseNJ coalition in New Jersey. Over the course of her fellowship, Tish focused on meeting with many key stakeholders from across New Jersey. She expanded the coalition membership of WeRaiseNJ to include the African-American Chamber of Commerce and a parent representative, Tafshier Cosby, a former YouCAN Advocate. She also developed and executed an advocacy strategy around PARCC, in an effort to protect high standards and change the narrative around rigorous assessments in the Garden State. At the conclusion of her fellowship, Tish transitioned to lead WeRaiseNJ full-time as the coalition manager.

We’re excited to have Amanda, Arash, Tish and Seth join other 50CAN fellowship alumni as they put their advocacy strategies into practice for students in their communities. Please join me in congratulating these advocates on their fellowship graduation!

Vallay Varro was MinnCAN’s founding executive director. She now serves as the President of 50CAN and lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

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