Antionetta Kelley

Antionetta’s passion for connecting disadvantaged youth to educational and professional opportunities is undeniable. Raised by a single mother in a subsidized housing development, Antionetta attended Boston Public Schools (BPS) from kindergarten through 12. For most of her BPS experience, Antionetta recalls a broken system where peers from low socio-economic backgrounds struggled the most. Many people familiar with BPS take issue with the notion that students have to “win the lottery” in order to attend a decent school and get a quality education. Fortunately for Antionetta, who had seemingly never won the lottery in previous years, she had finally struck gold when she was accepted into Fenway High School in 2003. There, she was introduced to the type of schooling the she had never received in prior years: qualified teachers, a support system, innovative and effective teaching, and no testing. Perhaps most valuable, Antionetta got the opportunity to enroll in a unique course only offered at Fenway called Ventures, which drilled on the importance of goals and priority setting as they relate to life after graduation. If it were not for Ventures, Antionetta would not have learned how to write a cover letter or resume, interview for a job, work in a professional office setting, deliver a presentation, manage finances, and an array of other essential life skills that policymakers currently aren’t  investing in.  

Knowing this, Antionetta graduated from Fenway High School in 2007 on a mission. Ultimately, she wanted to help change the way key stakeholders now view the purpose of school. In her mind, districts, states, and the nation shouldn’t expect students to be college and career ready simply by learning mathematics, reading, and science. These core subjects are important, but we’re now living in a 21st century world that requires a more enhanced skill set. Students need to have life skills if they’re going to be expected to be self-sufficient and compete in a world that?s requiring a lot more from people than it did 50 years ago. 

Upon graduating from Fenway, Antionetta attended Smith College majoring in American Government and minoring in Spanish. Antionetta graduated from Smith in 2011 and immediately after traveled to Washington, D.C. and spent a summer serving as a Legislative Aide for then Senator John Kerry. Upon returning from D.C., Antionetta served as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in the Massachusetts Legal Assistance for Self-Sufficiency Program (MLASSP).  Through this experience, she transitioned into a staff role as the Program Coordinator for the Boston Resident Training Institute (BRTI), which is a grassroots organization of public housing residents dedicated to empowering others about their rights as tenants. 

Now a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Education Policy and Management program, Antionetta has narrowed her long-term professional focus around youth development and college- and career-readiness. 

Antionetta has worked closely with her former teacher, mentor, advisor, and now colleague, Amy Carrier, on all the issues addressed by Empowerment Through Education.  She believes that offering 21st century skills curriculum to students is a social justice issue. In a school system where the majority of enrolled students come from historically disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, the community needs to come together to ensure a level playing field and equal access to economic opportunities. The initiatives, projects, voice and movement created within Empowerment Through Education will help develop and implement a 21st century skills curriculum to address a systemic issue within our system.   

Antionetta may be reached at [email protected]

 

Sasha Smith

Sasha headshotBorn and raised in Boston, Massachusetts Sasha has always had a passion for empowering young people in her hometown and abroad. She believes in the power of a strongly connected community and of the impact even just a small group of impassioned minds can make. She’s remained involved in community activism and youth empowerment work for the past ten years as volunteer, youth worker, and now board member of a youth-led non-profit, and intends to do so for as long as she can!  As a former student within the Ventures program at Fenway High School, Sasha has worked closely with Amy Carrier and can offer an organic view of the importance of having such a curriculum available to all students.

After graduating from Fenway High School Sasha went on to attend Emerson College where she graduated with a B.A. in Writing, Publishing and Literature. Along the way she sought out and successfully completed internships at VIBE magazine, Boston Public Radio, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, American Student Assistance, and NPR. All of which can be directly attributed to the networking, professional and presentation skills she obtained within the Ventures program.  She now continues to support educational programs through her work with Project Hip Hop, as the Social Media representative for Empowerment Through Education and an Administrative Assistant and the Fellowship Coordinator at the Division for Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Sasha enjoys writing, blogging, spoken word poetry, Zumba, and live music events. She intends to obtain her MBA  as well as launch her own publishing and media company in the future.

You may reach Sasha at [email protected]


Meghan Block

Meghan Block is a graduate of Emmanuel College, where she earned her BA with Distinction in Developmental Psychology . She has a passion for guiding students through the challenges of their developmental years, most specifically their high school and early college years. Meghan has spent three years as an admissions officer and Assistant Director of Online Admissions at a small college in Boston, MA, where she learned the importance of appropriate college admissions counseling and early career counseling.  She believes that she has a valuable perspective from which all students and families can gain tremendous insight on the transition process from high school to career. 

Meghan is excited to contribute to the Empowerment Through Education mission. Her voice will provide college admissions advice and an insider perspective on the delicate transition between high school and college. Meghan believes that we must ensure that students and families have proper guidance when choosing what is next for them after high school. She wishes for all students to know what goes on behind the scenes of a college admissions office. Addressing the lack of transparency and a lack of appropriate guidance is of utmost importance to Meghan and she is excited to lend her voice and her passion to the Empowerment Through Education movement.

Meghan is always open to discussion and welcomes reader’s thoughts or questions for later columns. Meghan currently resides in Massachusetts with her husband and two young sons.

Send your college admissions questions for Meghan to [email protected]

 

Erik Walker

Erik Walker is the English Department Head at Plymouth South High School and an Adjunct Professor at Quincy College in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Master’s Degree in English from Eastern Illinois University and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Missouri.

Erik has helped design and implement curriculum for fifteen years at the local level (for Plymouth Public Schools) and the national level, including writing the teaching materials and lesson plans for Greenwood Press’ Pop Culture Universe and ABC-CLIO’s Pop Culture “Analyze” research-based units. Since early in his career, his research interest has been studying ways teachers at secondary schools and colleges/universities can better use and implement popular culture and media studies in curricula and teaching. In 2002, he created the “Teaching: Popular Culture and the Classroom” section of the Southwest Popular / American Culture Association to help gather scholars to study the critical uses of technology, culture, and media in classrooms, and he continued to chair that section of the conference until 2013. He now co-chairs the “Pedagogy & Popular Culture” section of that conference in Albuquerque, NM and has been featured in Scholastic’s Instructor magazine for his own innovative use of popular culture in teaching. Erik is currently on the Advisory Board for the academic journal Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture.

Erik is happy to be part of Empowerment through Education particularly because it focuses it provides opportunities for students to take charge of their own learning. In the past five years, Erik has studied the role of authentic assessment and differentiated instruction in the classroom, and he has seen first-hand how small learning communities, advisories, and senior-projects can impact student motivation and future successes. He has been part of visiting teams to assess how high schools across New England are using authentic assessments in order to provide strategies for improvement. Erik believes this is something that can be done in all schools and in all settings. In 2013, he co-presented at the Inspire Conference, sponsored by the National Institute for Student Centered Education (NISCE), “Envisioning New Realities for Education in a Traditional Setting,” which studied how differentiated classroom structure and authentic assessment can create rigorous opportunities for students to express themselves while still meeting state and national standards. He has led workshops and teacher in-service sessions on topics including differentiated instruction, assessment strategies, media studies, peer assessment and revision, and speaking/listening strategies. His current research interest involves investigating ways to extend authentic assessment initiatives from high school settings to post-secondary institutions and study how colleges can change the way they teach reading and writing tasks and have students work with local communities to make learning more authentic in the required “composition” cycles at two and four year colleges.

An educator with a passion for English and media studies, Erik has received several teaching honors and was recognized as the 2012 New England English Teacher of the Year, the recipient of the Ann Garland West Award for Excellence in English Teaching, given by the New England Association of Teachers of English. He also received the 2012-2013 Lorenz Adjunct Faculty Award for Best Adjunct Teaching from Quincy College. He has received more than a dozen grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities for studies related to his classroom instruction. Yet despite the teaching awards he has received, he is most proud that his journalism students won the “All New England Award” for best television journalism news program in New England for four consecutive years, 2010-2013, in ceremonies given by the New England Scholastic Press Association at Boston University. Erik currently resides in Plymouth, Mass with his wife and two children.

Erik can be reached [email protected].