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313Reads Michigan Education Policy Fellowship Reflections

Contributed by: Candise Hill and Joy Lyman, 313Reads Michigan Education Policy Fellows with Teach for America Detroit

Over the past nine months, 313Reads has hosted two policy fellows who have coalition work through the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) and advocacy and communications. Hear more about their experiences, and what they’ll take with them on the next part of their literacy advocacy journey:

What was your favorite thing about working with 313Reads?

  • Candise: The YAC-led Collective Learning discussions were definitely a highlight of my work with 313Reads. To see YAC members collaborate with their parents to lead thoughtful discussions and create vibrant presentations that spoke to their literacy passions was truly a joy. These young leaders took on the role of teachers, to both peers and adults, as they enlightened us on topics, such as the ways that Hip Hop connects to literacy skills, and how book banning is impacting youth literacy. I was so proud to see YAC members’ brilliance on display.

  • Joy: I truly appreciated the ability to build coalition and community with so many brilliant professionals and organizations who are passionate about literacy. I had the opportunity to facilitate a community conversation about the Library in Every School bills, and in the planning and facilitation process, I got to know librarians, teachers, students, parents, and advocates who care deeply about the contributions that libraries and certified librarians bring to schools. Seeing the passion and commitment that we all had made me feel hopeful that we will see even more support for libraries spread through our community.

What is something unexpected that happened during your fellowship?

  • Candise: I definitely didn’t know what to expect as I started this fellowship; but one pleasant surprise that has come from this experience is that it’s helped me to reconnect to the city of Detroit and the great work that is being done here. I grew up a Detroiter, but spent some time away after college. I returned home last year, and working with 313Reads has been such a great reminder of the fact that this city is full of passion and community members who are committed advocates. Seeing the examples of partnership and collaboration that exist within the 313Reads coalition has been inspiring and speaks to the fact that the fight for literacy justice is a collective one.

  • Joy: During the fellowship I was working on some advocacy efforts in regards to school libraries, which has been a passion of mine for several years. This legislative session was the first time that the bills mandating school libraries and certified librarians were given a hearing in the MI Senate Education Committee. As I worked with contacts to mobilize and consider what the passage of these bills would mean, I had the opportunity to testify at the committee hearing and share my perspective as a teacher with the members as they considered the bills. When I went into this experience, I definitely did not think I’d have that type of platform. It was a really meaningful and memorable experience for me as an educator and advocate. 

What is a lesson or idea from your time with 313Reads that you’ll take with you?

  • Candise: While my work with 313Reads is concluding, I am taking with me the charge to stay involved in advocating for youth literacy. As an educator, literacy justice is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart, and my involvement in 313Reads opened my eyes to so many more avenues that I can take advantage of to stay engaged at various levels and to advocate in new ways. I am excited for what’s next!

  • Joy: something that I really valued was the way that the coalition members centered the mission of the organization in everything they did. Working with 313Reads helped me to be more intentional about the way I analyzed policy, keeping in mind the lens of our work, and looking with a critical eye. As I continue working in the field of education policy I will definitely use that strategy within issues that I am involved in.


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