Sankofa: Connecting My Past to My Future in Educational Leadership

 Photo credit: Unsplash

Photo credit: Unsplash

Sankofa is an African word from the Akan tribe in Ghana. The Akans believe that there must be movement and new learning as time passes. As this forward march proceeds, the knowledge of the past must never be forgotten.

In 2009, I nearly failed out of college as a freshman due to lack of preparation and guidance in high school. After junior year, in order to escape the troubles of an abusive relationship, I stepped out on faith and moved to California to explore my passion for the arts. After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising I picked up odd jobs that supported me while I worked part-time as a fashion stylist. Although I had some wins in the fashion industry, I never felt fulfilled with the work I was doing. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to have a career that allowed me to use my gifts to change lives and make the world a better place. This feeling of discontentment kindled my transition into the social sector.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to have a career that allowed me to use my gifts to change lives and make the world a better place.

As a Studio Volunteer at Inner City Arts, I witnessed the connection between arts education and student achievement. Because of budget cuts, minority students in Los Angeles were not offered art-related courses in school. As a result, Inner City Arts bussed in students from lower income neighborhoods in order to fulfill that need. Studies show that at-risk students often find pathways through the arts to broader academic successes. My experience working at Inner City Arts kindled my desire to understand how arts education impacts achievement. I felt it was necessary to have experience with students from divergent backgrounds to decipher how innovative coursework, or the lack thereof, affects overall learning outcomes. This led me to working as an enrichment teacher in Westwood, one of LA’s most affluent neighborhoods. Enrichment education focuses on the development of the whole child by giving students an opportunity to tap into their personal interests. Offering activities in a way that engages students promotes skill development, and often improves their achievement in core subjects and other realms of learning and life.

At Westwood Elementary, I noticed a major emphasis on parent involvement. To gain a better understanding of how parental involvement affects student achievement, I began doing research for Families in Schools. Families in Schools is an organization designed to involve parents and communities in their child’s education in order to achieve success. As a research volunteer, I gained exceptional knowledge in the field of educational research. My research has cultivated a deeper understanding of how parental engagement impacts students’ achievement, and the role leadership plays in parental engagement, particularly in underserved communities. It is the leader’s job to elicit meaningful stakeholder engagement by understanding their audience, and tailoring strategies to the specific needs of the community.

In my quest for further knowledge in the areas of learning and leadership, I enrolled in an Masters program at New York University. Through the Educational Leadership, Politics, and Advocacy program, I have explored educational policy and the burgeoning role of educational organizations working with schools and communities, both nationally and internationally. I have also examined the ways in which leadership shapes education and how an innovative approach to learning and leadership is necessary.  Because of my own experience with underachievement, I empathize with those who feel a sense of confusion and despondency when it comes to education. I have a particular passion for underserved youth and I hope to help curb violence and poverty in urban communities.

My goal is to develop an organization that empowers young people to be creative, confident, and collaborative leaders.

I believe this can be achieved by designing an integrated curriculum that simultaneously builds social-emotional and applied skills. Since being fellow at Future Leaders in Action, I have gained a greater understanding of what it takes to create an engaging and sustainable curriculum. I know this experience and others things I’ve learned in the past are key components to me being successful in the future. Sankofa teaches us that we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. Whatever we have lost, forgotten, forgone, or been stripped of can be reclaimed, revived, preserved, and perpetuated.