Community Launch 2017 "Creating tables-one leg at a time!"

What do you get when you put 20 community-oriented individuals of diverse age, background, expertise, and interest together in a learning fellowship that provides them with the adequate tools to properly articulate the formation of a high-quality charter school and then be able to identify what a high-quality school should look like for students in the city of Memphis?

You get the inaugural Community Launch Fellowship, sponsored by the Tennessee Charter Center under the leadership of the Managing Partnerships Director-Anjelica Hall. It was a vision of G
Hall's that over the course of years of brainstorming, serious and authentic conversation and propose posting; Hall got the opportunity to put her vision into a plan of action that has sparked a fantastic movement in the city with these 20 fellows.

As a Native Memphian, product of legacy Memphis City Schools and a stakeholder in the educational reform movement, Hall knew all too well the challenges and longed for the opportunity to allow the community to have an informed say on what was taking place but also be equipped to do something besides "talking."  She envisioned bringing individuals to a table to hopefully bridge the gap between the misinformed and the informed and to dispel the myth that community as a whole didn't care about the educational affairs of the city. 

Hall got her chance with the inaugural cohort of 20 fellows, who she has consistently applauded for their commitment, dedication, and diligence towards the efforts of seeing Memphis better and being a part of true education reform and ensuring our students indeed have access to quality learning environments. 

Community Launch set out to support a cohort of families and community leaders by providing them with deep training in the educational landscape and quality schools and helping them to create a framework for the launch of a new school of their selection. 

As a part of the program, Community Launch aimed to recruit 20 parents, community leaders, and high school students interested in learning more about education, high-quality options, speaking with leaders and experts in the education field, and potentially helping to develop a charter school in Memphis. 

Beginning in January, 20 fellows came together for one weekend a month, and on Saturday-June 17th these 20 scholars graduated from this 6-month program.

The ages of members of the cohort ranged from ages: 16 to 65 and included students, parents, business leaders, community leaders and school leaders. 

The program aimed to create the following opportunities for Fellows:  Gaining a deeper and more authentic understanding of educational quality and accountability; Increasing ownership and decision-making power over education reform and transformation initiatives being implemented in their communities; Building investment in democratic processes and engaging in a process of inquiry, investigation, and decision making while collaborating with peers and neighbors of diverse backgrounds and mindsets; Improving the likelihood that specific reform initiatives will truly address the needs of the primary stakeholders; Connecting our Fellows with avenues to be substantially involved at the onset of the change process; and Establishing a framework for a school entity that would be responsible for supporting the transmission of core values and ethics to students. 

Over the last six months, our Fellows have been engaged in the rigorous process of learning about the educational landscape and charter schools, both locally and nationally. They have heard from experts across the country, visited excellent charter schools and networks, and deeply examined charter model design. Each Fellow has a breadth and depth of knowledge on charter schools, as well as the challenges to ensure their quality, and are eager to use the knowledge they have acquired to support education initiatives in Memphis. 

The lessons learned have been invaluable, and now these 20 Fellows are a part of a distinguished community of educated, empowered and equipped members that understand the workings of the charter movement, the current educational landscape (locally, statewide and nationally) but also, more of what's needed for students in this great bluff city. 

Someday, we will look back and reflect and realize the changes that needed to be made in our city and individual communities starts with stakeholders coming to the table. For where there aren't any tables, or any seats left at the tables already created but our voice deserves to be heard, then we'll take the lesson from Anjelica Hall as she's shown us how, to create the table, one leg at a time!

For any further questions or details, please email the Community Launch Director, Anjelica Hall, at anjelica@tnchartercenter.org.