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Iwinosa Idahor ’09, ’11 MED: Amplifying Voices for Equitable Change in Chattanooga

A photo of Iwinosa Idahor at a cafe meeting with a community member
Idahor meets with a community member to discuss UnifiEd and how to get involved. Photo by Harlan Groves.

Iwinosa Idahor ’09, ’11 MED says her passion for positive and equitable change in public education led her to pursue a fellowship with the Southern Education Leadership Initiative (SELI) this summer. Idahor joins nine other fellows across eight states to develop leadership skills, engage in community, and learn about contemporary education issues by working at an assigned leading non-profit sector organization or school district through the end of this month.

Below she talks about her experience examining strategies for improving education, addressing community needs, and how the NC State College of Education prepared her to help meet the needs of Chattanooga and Hamilton County Schools during her fellowship this summer. The following as-told-to is edited from an interview.

This summer, I am with UnifiEd in Chattanooga, Tenn., working to amplify community voice at the grassroots level and providing tools to community advocates, supporting a narrative of positive and equitable change within the public school system. I am working alongside staff members to develop and maintain a variety of longstanding initiatives and resources that will help to keep community members engaged in equity work, both at the local and district levels.

Specific issues of education that are being addressed here at UnifiEd are school desegregation, supporting people in our schools (students, teachers, staff and school leaders), whole child development (social-emotional learning), school funding, and increasing community empowerment and engagement.

The NC State College of Education has prepared me for the work that I am doing here because of the strong focus that the college places on students, faculty and staff becoming critically engaged in discussions and spaces around social justice, community engagement and diversity and inclusion.

At this point in the summer, I have been engaged in several different projects, like coordinating community engagement initiatives, researching various desegregation policies that have been implemented, and co-facilitating various equity workshops, that have allowed me to not only meet community members, but get plugged into the work of other groups and projects that are thriving in Chattanooga.

My vision for public education is that it will be structured in a way that allows all students and educators, despite their color, creed, or circumstance, to have access to an equitable educational and work experience that will equip and empower them to navigate through and positively contribute to various spaces, and thrive as citizens of the world.

Being a SELI fellow is helping to expose me to the potential trajectories that my work as an emerging leader in education can follow and provides me with the network, resources, experiences and support to serve as a change-agent within this field.

The most important things that I have learned are the importance of community building/building relationships, community empowerment, and the power of really knowing and immersing myself in the community that I seek to make an impact.

My work this summer aligns with the work that I hope to continue to do upon completion of my doctoral program. The courses that I have taken, people that I have met and engaged with, and experiences that I have had within the college, have helped to create the context that I will need to be effective as an emerging leader and scholar in education.