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

50CAN believes in the power of local leaders to be catalysts for change in their communities. That’s why this winter, we launched a new program to grow the advocacy movement and find more citizens who want to make a difference for kids. YouCAN is premised on the idea that everyone can be a leader in their community with the right tools.

The program is designed to be part-time, with a small stipend to cover the expenses of working on a new initiative.


We started the journey of creating YouCAN by sending out a nationwide call for applicants to share the education issues they felt passionately about and wanted to address.

We were thrilled to receive 137 applications from 24 states and the District of Columbia. The majority of applicants came from states with CANs, which is important since this will help us provide a “home base” for their work and a built-in network of mentors. The states with the largest number of applicants were North Carolina (26), Pennsylvania (13) and Maryland (12). 


One of the main goals of YouCAN is to deepen the bench of education advocates across the country by bringing more diverse voices into 50CAN’s work.   

This year, 87% of applicants identify as women, and 68% of applicants identify as people of color. Similar to the statistics we saw with our fellowship applications, this stands in sharp contrast to the demographics of the current leadership of education advocacy organizations. 

More than half of all applicants (52%) have worked in education as teachers, coaches, tutors, paraprofessionals, after-school teachers or adjunct professors and 16% currently serve as K-12 classroom teachers.  

We’ll share more updates with you in the weeks ahead as we select our inaugural YouCAN cohort. To get the latest news straight to your inbox, join our mailing list or join the conversation with us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram


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