20 Years of Conviction and Hope (Part Four)

In honor of our 20 year anniversary, New Leaders is celebrating our talented and committed staff—and the passion that draws each of us to our work.
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For more than 20 years, New Leaders has equipped equity-minded education leaders to be powerful and positive forces for change. Our leaders remove barriers to success for underestimated and underserved students, supporting students in fully realizing their futures as the next generation of great thinkers, innovators, and leaders for our society.

Our staff of 160—57% of whom identify as people of color—are committed to the same. 

Today, in honor of our anniversary, we are celebrating the passion that fuels our two decades of impact. Each of our staff members has a different “why” story that draws them to our work and ultimately connects us all. 

Hear from five of our staff members about what motivates them to do this work. And if you need more inspiration, check out the full series.

Karen Bryan-Chambers, Senior Director, Leadership Academy, 3 years

First and foremost, I believe I am called to do this work. There has always been a desire in me to improve the quality of education that has far too many of our students inadequately prepared for learning. As a teacher, I recognized that our most vulnerable students have the least access to equitable education. I was determined to provide all students with an opportunity to make progress and have ownership over their learning. I dedicated 15 years of my teaching career to educating racially marginalized communities in the city of New Orleans. I believe students not only need committed and dedicated educators but educators who were highly skilled and

qualified to mitigate the learning loss of all students.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated my beloved city, New Orleans, and our schools were forced to close. Upon reopening in August 2006, I was determined to get home to teach! My drive did not change, but only intensified because I witnessed our students being denied the opportunities to excel. I was more determined than ever to, not only make a change but to be the change! Therefore, my personal mission has been to continue to create conditions where students can succeed and thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.


Laura Kadetsky, Chief Administrative Officer & General Counsel, 11 years

I had the privilege of receiving a phenomenal education from pre-K through law school. I engage in this work because I want to live in a world where every child has the opportunity to receive a phenomenal education from their schools too. And I believe that New Leaders approach—supported by our collective belief in the potential in every child—is critical to reaching that world.

Keith Chow, Director, Program Management & Operations, 9 years

I have been in education since 2001 when I was a high school English teacher in Chesapeake, VA – incidentally at the alma mater of both Alonzo Mourning and Jay Pharoah. Throughout my education career, I’ve been passionate about finding innovative ways to serve the educational needs of all students, particularly those from traditionally underrepresented communities.


Aja Foote, Executive Director, HR Administration & Benefits, 14 years

I grew up with a dad that was an educator. His passion for education and the unyielding care he exhibited for his students inspired me. I started my career as a high school Spanish teacher but was disheartened by the challenges I saw my students facing on a daily basis, and I had no idea how to change it. I decided to alter my career path and go into Human Resources, so I could help support the educators and leaders that are on the frontlines making a difference every day. 


Mary Mitchell, Director, Program, 4 years 

When I was eight years old, my mother decided to send me to private school on the opposite side of Cincinnati. This meant every day I had to endure a school bus ride starting at 5:45 am. I do not believe it is right for any parent to have to put their eight-year child on a bus to travel over two hours to arrive at school for an excellent education. Yes, I did receive an excellent education, but shouldn’t parents be able to send their children to the neighborhood for an excellent school experience? Absolutely! This is why I do this work. This is why I am at New Leaders.

As a Master Teacher in Memphis, I conducted professional development and did classroom visits in low-income communities with predominantly Black and Brown students. I encountered teachers who chose not to teach standards they didn’t understand or believed students could not achieve. Some teachers were simply reading the newspaper during class. It was not acceptable that Black and Brown students from low-income communities were not given the same excellent instruction as their peers in other neighborhoods. All children should have access to a great school in their neighborhood. This is why I do this work and why I am happy to do this work, every day!


To learn more about New Leaders, visit www.20years.newleaders.org/

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