Vallay Varro was a founding state executive director. She now serves as the president of 50CAN.

The 50CAN Education Advocacy Fellowship was created to serve as an incubator for the next generation of local education advocates. Selected fellows will participate in a paid,​ 12-month program consisting of customized trainings, site visits, classroom-based learning and one-on-one mentoring with 50CAN’s executive directors. Once the yearlong fellowship is complete, fellows will have the opportunity to launch an education advocacy effort in their community.

The application process for this year’s fellowship closed on Friday and we spent the past few days completing an initial review of all the applications. Over the next few months, we’ll run a rigorous interview process for the applicants—video interviews, work process tests, in-person interviews and role-playing exercises—with the goal of selecting our second cohort by this summer so they can begin their work in September 2015.

We wanted to share with you a few facts about this year’s applicants to the fellowship.


We were overwhelmed by the number of people who stepped forward with a plan to build a new advocacy campaign in their community. In total, 796 people applied to the fellowship this year. That’s a tenfold increase over last year’s 80 applications.

To put that into perspective, it would take more than 17 school buses to hold all the aspiring local leaders who are seeking the opportunity to run advocacy campaigns.


This year we received applications from 43 states and the District of Columbia, a 57 percent increase over last year. The top states were Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Tennessee and Texas, where we received 50 or more applications per state.


We’ve spent a lot of time at 50CAN discussing the importance of race in conversations about education reform. We know that too often communities of color are underrepresented in the local leadership of this movement, which has a significant impact on what does and does not get discussed when the policy goals are selected and the advocacy plans are made.   

This fellowship aims to serve as an on-ramp for talented and committed individuals who are deeply connected to their communities to emerge as advocacy leaders with the support of both our national staff and experienced local advocates from across our network. This year, more than two-thirds of our applicants were women and nearly two-thirds were people of color.

We’re deeply humbled and grateful for all of the help of our friends and supporters to get the word out about the fellowship this year. The results are an amazing testament to the strong interest across the country in opportunities to lead.

We look forward to sharing more updates with you in the weeks and months ahead as we work towards selecting our second class of fellows who believe that all children deserve access to a high-quality education, regardless of their address. To get the latest news straight to your inbox please join our mailing list or join the conversation with us on Twitter and Facebook



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