Author Archives: Bellwether Education Partners

Celebrating National Intern Day

In celebration of National Intern Day on July 28, we asked Bellwarians to reflect on the valuable lessons they’ve learned through past (and present) internships. 

Gage Matthews, summer 2022 intern, Policy and Evaluation 

My Bellwether internship has been incredibly valuable for learning about career paths, interacting with diverse teams of skilled and influential professionals, expanding my personal network, and identifying and developing critical skills for my professional future. 

So far this summer, I’ve been able to work with various forms of data and interact with many stakeholders and organizations. I’ve also learned the value of working closely with internal and external stakeholders, while introducing rigorous methods into evaluations and analyses. The diversity of team members and expertise needed to fully support a range of clients and projects has informed how I consider the construction of teams and my role within them. As someone who has mostly been in the school and university setting for many years, working in a different organization with highly skilled teams has been a wonderful experience that will inform my professional path in the short and long term. 

Krista Kaput, senior analyst, Policy and Evaluation

The summer between my second and third year of teaching, I participated in a public policy and advocacy internship with Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS). During my internship, I assisted with researching and writing MPS’ $14 million GEAR UP grant — which served 2,560 students in 17 of the district’s middle and high schools. The goal of the grant was to increase academic performance, graduation rates, and the percentage of students who enrolled in postsecondary education. I also worked on a project around Early Warning Indicators, researching national best practices and policies, and interviewing principals, counselors, and other stakeholders about school culture, goals, and intervention programs already in place. I synthesized the information and produced a report with recommendations for MPS on next steps for implementing a ninth-grade on-track indicator. 

This internship affirmed the importance of doing both qualitative and quantitative research in policymaking. It’s critical to not only look at data and best practices, but to also speak to on-the-ground experts doing the work and being directly impacted by policies. This lesson grounded me when I was doing statewide education advocacy in Minnesota and continues to guide the work I do at Bellwether today.

Priyanka Patel, analyst, Policy and Evaluation; former summer 2021 intern

I started my journey at Bellwether as a Policy and Evaluation intern the summer of 2021. Like many doctoral students, I always thought I’d pursue a career in academia. However, my many years as a student, while being generally very positive, also made clear to me the type of work that I found fulfilling. As I was researching potential employers, I recognized that there were many non-academic jobs that aligned with my interests. Some of these employers were offering summer internships and thought it might be a good way to test which type of professional environment would best suit my skills. Bellwether quickly stood out as a top choice — the work aligned so closely with my own interests. 

During my Bellwether internship, I spent 10 weeks working closely with Bellwether’s evaluation team. What really made my time as an intern meaningful was how Bellwether treats its interns like integral members of the team. Although interns are only hired for a fixed time period, we were fully integrated into the organization. We not only got to know the ins and outs of Bellwether, but were also given the opportunity to interact with clients and to make direct contributions on projects. I was able to get a firsthand look at what my day-to-day experience would be like working in research and evaluation in a non-academic setting. By the end of my internship, I was much more confident about pursuing a career outside of academia. The experience led me to apply for a full-time position with Bellwether and nearly one year later, I could not be happier!

Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month

Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages.

In honor of Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) Month, we invited Bellwether team members to reflect on how their heritage shapes their life and/or the impact & legacy of an AAPI historical hero. 

If you are Asian-American or Pacific Islander, how has your heritage impacted your life? Are there any special traditions that you or your family participate in?

Julie Nguyen, design & visual associate
As a first-generation Vietnamese-American, I know how valuable it is for kids to receive opportunities in education. My parents immigrated to the US when they were only 14/15 years old, finishing only some high school before transitioning to the workforce. Knowing this has only ignited my fire to achieve great (and beautiful) things in this life. I carry that strength and sacrifice with me, and am grateful and proud of those who came before me.
Krista Kaput, senior analyst, Policy & Evaluation

My grandma was born and raised in Japan, and met my grandpa when he was stationed in Fukuoka. I was raised to always be proud of my Japanese heritage. Growing up, I was taught how to make sushi and sukiyaki, and I also learned how to do origami. I also had the privilege to visit Tokyo and Kyoto a few years ago, and talking with my grandma about that experience was very special. As I’ve gotten older, we’ve had more honest conversations about her life growing up in Japan during and post-World War II and raising biracial sons in America, which have been pivotal in my life. I am so proud to be her granddaughter.

When you think of Asian-American or Pacific Islander historical heroes, so people no longer living today, who is someone you think of? Why is their legacy important to you and important more generally?

Titilayo Tinubu Ali, partner, Policy & Evaluation

Detroit activist, philosopher, and writer Grace Lee Boggs’ legacy offers so much wisdom that I find relevant to our work of dramatically improving education and life outcomes for systematically marginalized youth. She spoke of how those of us who seek transformation have a responsibility to keep growing, learning, and transforming ourselves. Her legacy calls us toward steady accountability and self-reflection so that we never lose sight of doing the internal and interpersonal work of transformation while we are shaping change “out there.”  

She also spoke of how “movements are born of critical connections rather than critical mass.”  When challenges in the education sector feel insurmountable, her readings remind me that big changes start small and there are lessons to learn in communities, classrooms, homes, and the tiniest units of change–even when we’re seeking to shape change at scale.

Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week: Team Reflections

Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley for EDUimages.

We’re celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week May 2-6. In honor of educators who have shaped all of us at Bellwether, we asked a few team members to reflect on a specific teacher who had a direct and lasting impact on their lives. 

Michelle Croft, senior analyst, Policy and Evaluation

My favorite teacher, Mr. Todd Black, is retiring this year. Mr. Black was my junior high and high school band director. I’ll always be grateful for his time, patience, and encouragement. Through my involvement in band, I had a creative outlet surrounded by a wonderful community (that Mr. Black fostered), and I learned perseverance that would serve me well in life and in my ongoing love of playing music. 

As an adult, I’ve also grown to appreciate how Mr. Black sacrificed evenings and a few weekends away from his family each year to take us to area colleges for honor band. As a first-generation college student, these trips were invaluable, not only for the musical experience, but for the exposure to different colleges.  

Thank you, Mr. Black, and congratulations on your retirement!  

Liz McNamee, associate partner, Strategic Advising

Ms. Rush had a tremendous impact on my life. She taught economics and also supervised our high school newspaper. Ms. Rush inspired me to examine and understand current events — and sharpened my writing so I could report on issues with depth and nuance. I enjoyed her classes so much that I strongly considered a career in journalism. Even though I didn’t become a reporter, my life trajectory would not have been the same without her mentorship. 

I appreciate Ms. Rush for her impressive tenure as a public school teacher, for her use of humor to make economics a fun subject, and for her guidance as I pursued my academic passions. 

DaWana Williamson, partner and chief operating officer

I had two favorite teachers growing up — my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Thompson, and my seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher, Mr. Freddy Prinz.

Mr. Prinz is the teacher who had the biggest impact on my career choice to become an engineer. He made science exciting and fun, and no two days were ever the same. Mr. Prinz had a way of engaging a bunch of hormone-raging teenagers that felt authentic and so amazingly respectful, unlike so many of our teachers at that time! As I think back, Mr. Prinz must have had a great understanding of the teenage brain and what he needed to do to get the most from us. He was witty, energetic, and so much fun!

There are some teachers you experience so fully that you wish you could bottle the feeling you had when you were in their classrooms and share it with every teenager you know. Not only do I think it would give them a great love and appreciation for science, but I think it would change their lives. I know that’s what Mr. Prinz did for me. 

Katrina Boone, associate partner, Policy and Evaluation

Ms. Ashby was my drama teacher. Her class was rigorous, but she knew how to make things fun. She taught me how to do improv, read iambic pentameter, run the lights for a show, be a stage manager, and chase down the perfect piece of furniture for a set (before Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace).

I frequently stopped by her classroom after school to chat, and she always made time for me. She put down the papers she was grading or the lesson she was planning, looked into my eyes, and listened. I was a kid who desperately needed to be seen, to be listened to, and she was always there to see and listen to me. When I ended up on the other side of the desk as a teacher, I did my best to be that person for my students. (Also, she taught me about Simon & Garfunkel, and that is priceless.)