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Bringing Passion and Focus to Education in America

• Jennifer Diaz

“It doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters where you are going.” 

–Dr. Condoleezza Rice in “American Creed” 

Perhaps understandably, I thought a lot about education as I watched American CreedDr. Condoleezza Rice’s inspiring and uplifting new film. It’s told through the stories of Americans from all walks of life and discusses different views on what it means to be an American today. It was great to see education featured as the gateway to success and opportunity for all.  

I loved a bunch of things about this film. There were so many inspiring profiles of people working every day to make a difference, because someone had worked to make a difference in their lives. There was a sense that unity and understanding in our country are reachable, which I found deeply encouraging. And there was a common thread that education, community and family are at the heart of all our success as a country.  

To be honest, what I really loved most about the film was the great community of women it profiled, including Dr. Rice, who are working every day to elevate all people across our nation. What a great future they are helping to build for America!  

 As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I’m glad we’re recognizing the great contributions that women have made to our country. Their passion and focus inspire me every day to do all I can to help create equitable and accessible educational opportunities for all children.  

Earlier this month, my ExcelinEd colleague, Lizzette Reynolds, Vice President of Policy, had the opportunity to get know one of the women profiled in the film when they were together at South by South West EDU. Elementary school principal Deidre Prevett, a Native American from the Muskogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma, is one of the film’s American stories. As a fifth-generation educator, Principal Prevett says serving children from all backgrounds is her version of living the American Dream. The message she received from her family and that she passes on to her students now is this: Education is the key to success and to better yourself. 

Another American story is about entrepreneur Lelia Janah. Ms. Janah founded Sama Source, a company that helps bring tech jobs to the poorest regions of the world. Through education and training over the internet, Sama Source paid out more than $1 million in wages to those regions for jobs such as data entry and transcribing reports.  

Now, partnering with a fellow American entrepreneur who heard her impassioned TED talk, Ms. Janah is bringing the same concept to rural Arkansas. She’s working to elevate a sharecropping community where jobs have been reduced by automation and where access to education is severely limited. Sama Source is helping to create educational and economic opportunities, and Ms. Janah described how energized she is to keep fighting for access to technology, especially the internet, so that all Americans gain equal opportunity.  

In the film, Dr. Rice talks about the collective enterprise of America—that it’s not just about us as individuals. It’s about all of us building each other up through community, education and service. Dr. Rice said she, too, benefitted from a community that believed in her and believed that education is the key to success in life.   

ExcelinEd’s CEO, Patricia Levesque, often says, “Policy changes lives.” In our tireless work to transform education, I’ve watched that prove true time and time again. In watching “American Creed,” I was also reminded that impassioned people, laser-focused on making a difference for others, can be equally as powerful.

About the author

Jennifer Diaz @Jennformative

Jennifer serves as the Vice President of Communications, providing strategic advice and leading ExcelinEd’s external communications and marketing efforts. Previously, Jennifer served as ExcelinEd’s National Director of Advocacy, supporting the Advocacy Team in their work with state leaders to develop and adopt legislation and policies that transform education to ensure students are prepared for success in college, career and life, and as ExcelinEd’s State Communications Director, coordinating media and strategic communications in key education reform states across the nation, including legislative session rapid response and long term policy and advocacy communication campaigns.