Together, the Classes of 2023 and 2024 explored leadership in K-12 education equity and access during Learning Lab II.
By Zach VanHekken '23
“Education is the responsibility of all of us,” said Jim Martin, a member of the Wake County Board of Education and Park Faculty Scholar for the Class of 2014.
As a science education major, I was excited when the Class of 2023 selected equity and access in K-12 education as our topic for Learning Lab II, the Park Scholars’ second opportunity to examine how leaders behave, interact, and empower people to do great things within a theme selected by the class.
While a traditional Learning Lab II for Park Scholars occurs in Washington, D.C., with only their class, it’s safe to say that this year was not traditional. From Oct. 3-5, 2021, the Classes of 2023 and 2024 had the unique experience of going through our Learning Lab together, which has never been done before. While much of the Raleigh-based experience focused on learning how leaders operate in the K-12 education sector, we also had the opportunity to create new interclass relationships bringing us closer together as a Park community.
While every Park Scholar is going to derive different lessons from a trip like this, three important points stand out to me:
1. Passion is at the core of change.
2. The best leaders inspire others to lead.
3. Many issues intersect and we all must do our part to solve the issues we can.
First, we met with many local, state, and national leaders who showed a tremendous passion for what they do. Among them, Bryan Proffitt, the vice president of the North Carolina Educators Association, showed us what true passion and vulnerability look like. He talked about his advocacy work for increasing teacher pay and what it takes to rally a team of educators behind you to march and make a statement. Passion comes in many forms, and even though education happens to be the topic I feel most passionate about as well, it has the potential to influence every person.
Second, the principal panel taught us how, as leaders, we are responsible for empowering those we are leading to become leaders themselves. I recall the story that Hilburn Academy Principal Mariah Walker told about empowering one of her teachers who is passionate about environmental and conservation issues to bring students in to make a change at her school. We all can bring people into our missions, but we serve better as leaders when we allow the individuals following us to lead things they are passionate about.
Finally, although this trip was about education, we learned that many issues in today’s society that leaders need to address intersect with each other and that each of us can make a difference. I realized this when U.S. Congressman G. K. Butterfield said “When you hear the word ‘poverty,’ do something about it.” He said this as he believes there is a direct correlation between poverty and access to education.
Thanks to the Park Scholarships program, we had an incredible opportunity to meet with some of the best leaders around the country and, as a future educator, I had the great experience to dive deeper into what being an educator truly means to me.
Learning Lab II Committee
- Kevin Cabral ’23, Co-chair
- Zachary VanHekken ’23, Co-chair
- Rachel Beall ’23
- Shriya Bhoothapuri ’23
- Ariana Frazier ’23
- Nehemiah MacDonald ’23
- William McPhaul ’23
- Cortney Ollis ’23
- Akshaya Ganesan ’24, Co-chair
- Jenni Mangala ’24, Co-chair
- Ramki Annachi ’24
- Elliott Gyll ’24
- Emma Holincheck ’24
- Katie Krawcheck ’24
- Bill Lamm ’24
- Joshua Mason ’24
- Joseph Staudt ’24
- Margaret Borden ’15, Graduate Research Assistant, William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation
- Anna-Claire Bousquet ’18, Library Media Coordinator, East Cary Magnet Middle
- Philip Boyne ’09, physics teacher, St. David’s School
- Sen. Richard Burr, U.S. Senator for North Carolina
- Carol Burris, Executive Director, Network for Public Education
- Rep. G.K. Butterfield, U.S. Representative for North Carolina’s 1st congressional district
- Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, North Carolina State Senator for District 15
- Francisco Durán, Superintendent, Arlington Public Schools
- Mandy Gill, Upper Campus Principal, GRACE Christian School
- Bob Grant, Principal, Washington Magnet Elementary School
- Nation Hahn, Director of Growth, EducationNC
- Bryan Hassel, Co-president, Public Impact
- Keung Hui, K-12 education reporter, News & Observer
- Kathryn Hutchinson, Principal, Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School
- David Lewis, Superintendent, Wayne County Public Schools
- Julianne Donoghue MacBain ’14, math teacher, GRACE Christian School
- Michael Maher, Executive Director, Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
- Steve Mares, Principal, Athens Drive Magnet High School
- Jim Martin, Wake County Board of Education member
- Cathy Moore, Superintendent, Wake County Public School System
- Joe Nathan, Director, Center for School Change
- Robert Pondiscio, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
- Bryan Proffitt, Vice President, North Carolina Association of Educators
- Jeffrey C. Riley, Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education
- B. Charvez Russell, Executive Director, Friendship Academy of the Arts
- Charles Siler, Consultant and Lobbyist, Save Our Schools Arizona
- Rep. Kandie Smith, North Carolina State Representative for District 8
- Hiller Spires, Executive Director and Associate Dean, William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation
- Catherine Truitt, North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction
- Elisa Villaneuva Beard, CEO, Teach for America
- Mariah Walker, Principal, Hilburn Academy
- Rachel Walter ’18, Science Curriculum Designer, IXL Learning
- William T. Wright, Jr., Superintendent, Hertford County Public Schools