Earlier in her studies, Emma Sullivan, a junior at Georgia State University, imagined a career leading to school principal, but she now hopes to impact the national education policy. She feels the experience she gained from her education major, as well as her work in the classroom will inform her in crafting equitable educational policies to better serve communities.
“The main reason I chose this major was to study the ‘ins and outs’ of the education field,” Sullivan says. “So many of our policy makers do not have a background in classroom experience. As someone who wants to go into education policy, I need to have a deep understanding of how a classroom runs and what teachers and students need, particularly marginalized students.”
Early passion for student mentorship and equitable education
For Sullivan, a Spring 2023 Every Learner Everywhere student intern, interest in educational equity began at a young age. “I grew up in a Latino/a dominant area of New England just outside of Boston,” she says.
“The area is considered a sanctuary city. A lot of students my age did not pursue higher education due to a lack of accessibility and resources. I did not have a lot of mentorship when I was applying to colleges. I try to reflect on my personal experience and be the mentor I wish I had.”
Sullivan earned a full scholarship to Georgia State as a Goizueta Scholar, funded through the Goizueta Endowment and coordinated through Latinx Student Services and Outreach (LASSO), which promotes Latino student achievement in higher education. While at Georgia State, Sullivan has worked as a substitute teacher and served as a mentor for high-school students applying to college in Atlanta schools through the Latino Leadership Initiative.
Prior to her Every Learner internship, Sullivan interned with Future Leaders in Action as a social media fellow where she partnered with Almost Fun, an organization that focuses on increasing interest in math learning for marginalized students.
Sullivan managed Almost Fun’s social media account and led an initiative called “Clear the List” to help teachers pay for school supplies. Teachers often receive little funding for their classroom materials and end up paying out of pocket. Sullivan also presented her work with Almost Fun at the Future Leaders in Action Showcase to founders, stakeholders, and non-profit professionals at the completion of her internship.
“In ‘Clear the List,’ teachers followed our page for a chance to be one of the 50 teachers selected to receive $100 toward their classroom wishlist,” says Sullivan. “We saw a huge increase in our engagement and our following through that initiative. I have always been interested in the intersection of technology and education, so it was rewarding to see how that intersection can make a positive change for teachers.”
Hopes for Every Learner internship
Sullivan applied for the Every Learner Everywhere internship after a search on LinkedIn and with the help of one of her mentors (who was also a former intern for Every Learner and a fellow Goizueta Scholar). She feels Every Learner’s mission aligns with her interests, prior experience, and goals, as well as adding new insight into educational policy. One of the first projects Sullivan and the other interns are tackling is an academic continuity plan analysis.
“I love the process of mining for data,” says Sullivan. “We talk a lot about culturally relevant issues in our education classes but there aren’t a lot of concrete numbers. I like being able to get the hands-on research experience this internship offers while centering the humanity of students in all the research we analyze.”
Sullivan believes she will be able to bring her studies as an education major to her internship with Every Learner, particularly with issues of equity and inclusion.
“Looking at DEI issues from an education major’s perspective, a lot of what we talk about is teaching from a culturally responsive point-of-view,” says Sullivan. “We want students of all ages to see themselves in the content and the environment that surrounds them. Making sure students of all backgrounds succeed and have accessible resources is important. I look forward to bringing insights from my education classes to this internship and broadening my scope of what it means to teach and learn with DEI at the forefront.”
As Sullivan’s senior year approaches, she has several goals for the future, including graduate programs and gaining global educational knowledge.
“I am planning to apply to graduate programs at Harvard,” she says. “I will also be studying abroad this summer to observe how education systems around the world function and analyze possible applications to our systems in the United States.”Download What Our Best College Instructors Do: Reflections by students about meaningful learning experiences