Meet the 2021 Russlynn Ali Summer Fellows

The Russlynn Ali Fellowship program, named in honor of the founding executive director of The Education Trust–West, aims to support people of color entering policy and advocacy leadership by laying the foundation for current and future policymakers, researchers, advocates, and African American, Latinx, Asian American, Pacific Islander and Indigenous communities to become lifelong leaders within California’s P-16 education ecosystem.

The cohort of 2021 Russlynn Ali Fellows is a group of teachers, education policy researchers and advocates who represent the diversity and vision of California’s P-12, higher education, and racial justice communities.

The five Fellows, who were selected from a highly competitive field of more than 400 applicants, will work on projects to advance educational equity and racial justice issues statewide over the course of the summer. During the 8 week summer experience, Fellows will gain exposure to the issues, policies, and politics of the current California landscape and work on projects to advance educational equity and racial justice issues.

The 2021 Russlynn Ali Summer Fellows

Medical Profession Opportunities Fellow

Jessica Ch’ng, Medical Profession Opportunities Fellow

Jessica Ch’ng has nine years of experience in higher educational access and admissions. She currently serves as an Assistant Director of Admissions at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, where she manages outreach initiatives. Previously, Jessica led recruitment programs for historically-excluded communities of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and worked at the Posse Foundation in Boston. While at MIT, she received a grant from the National Association of College Admission Counseling to coordinate college access resources for undocumented students in the Boston area and presented on educational access at national conferences. She also served on the MIT Office of the Vice Chancellor Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the executive board of the Association of Black Admissions and Financial Aid Officers of Ivy League and Sister Schools. Jessica earned her B.A. in Social Studies from Harvard College and M.S. in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. Her graduate capstone paper focused on the legacies of slavery and colonization in higher education and redress efforts at colleges and universities.

As the Medical Profession Opportunities Fellow, Jessica will lead a landscape analysis of the policies, practices, and stakeholders making meaningful contributions to diversifying the pipeline of medical professionals across the state.

Anti-Racist Practices Research Fellow

Valencia Clement, Anti-Racist Practices Research Fellow

Valencia Clement is a first generation Haitian-American scholar, poet and activist from Queens, New York. She was awarded a Posse Foundation scholarship to Vanderbilt University in 2012, and she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human and Organizational Development. She was awarded a Peabody Honor’s scholarship to pursue her Master of Public Policy in education policy at Vanderbilt. During her graduate program she led Peabody Coalition for Black Graduates and served as the college’s inaugural graduate assistant for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Upon graduation she spent a year working in digital humanities to restore epistemic power to Black elders and historians in the South. In addition to her research, she began her journey as an independent poet in 2019 and has since published five collections of poetry to document her experiences with epistemic justice, medical racism, living with a chronic illness, social justice activism, and the revolutionary power of creativity. Most recently, Valencia’s work has led her to establish “Ansanm Mutual Aid,” which supports unsheltered members of the Greater Tempe community. She hopes her work and stories empower people to express their collective histories through creative expression.

As the Anti-Racist Practices Research Fellow, Valencia will lead a literature review and research project to ensure that Education Trust–West has a deep understanding of current anti-racism frameworks and practices.

Educational Recovery Fellow

Neven Holland, Educational Recovery Fellow

Neven Holland is a public school, fourth-grade teacher for Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS). He completed his undergraduate degree in psychology at Indiana University Bloomington and his Master’s Degree in Urban Education at Union University through the Memphis Teacher Residency. Neven is currently pursuing a graduate certificate at Teachers College, Columbia University. Apart from teaching, Neven serves on the Superintendent’s Advisory Council for his district where he acts as an important voice for MSCS educators in the district’s decision-making process. He empowers the Superintendent with teacher insight, suggestions, and perspectives on critical educational issues, such as his district’s educational recovery efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Neven is also a Microsoft Ambassador for Microsoft Education at his school site, an instructional leadership team member, and a mentor teacher. In addition, Neven works as a research assistant on a mixed method, quasi-experimental study for the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education. Previously, he served as a Tennessee Educator Fellow at the State Collaborative on Reforming Education and worked during the summer as a policy and research intern at the Learning Policy Institute in Palo Alto, California. He was recently awarded the Association for Education Finance and Policy Pre-Doctoral Diversity Fellowship.

As the Educational Recovery Fellow, Neven will provide an equity alert detailing the implementation of California’s return to school plans and assist the Education Trust–West with shaping an equity-focused narrative around district planning for the return of students to in-person school.

Educator Diversity Fellow

Tomoko M. Nakajima, Educator Diversity Fellow

Tomoko is a critical education researcher who studies teacher retention at urban PK-12 schools. As a former high school teacher, she is dedicated to holistically exploring the conditions that contribute to educators’ sense of job satisfaction and wellbeing. Several fellowships and grants have supported her research projects to interview public school educators and illuminate the factors that enable and challenge teacher longevity at Title I sites throughout Los Angeles County. She has published and presented scholarship pertaining to teachers at education research conferences, garnering a “best of conference” award for a co-authored paper on teachers’ experiences in professional development workshops. Tomoko is a San Francisco native, earned her Bachelor’s Degree and teaching credential from Boston University, her Master’s Degree and school administration credential from Notre Dame de Namur University, and will graduate with a Ph.D. in urban schooling from the University of California, Los Angeles.

As the Educator Diversity Fellow, Tomoko examines school district policies and practices that help support and retain teachers of color in the profession.

Pathways to College Fellow

Rogelio Salazar, Pathways to College Fellow

Rogelio Salazar is a first-generation P-16 education policy scholar and a proud native of Oceanside, California. Having been impacted by the school-to-prison pipeline and being witness to the intersection of crime as well as structural poverty, these areas heavily influenced his desire to examine state policy on college access, career preparation, and school discipline alternatives. Through his scholarship, he takes a discursive and critical quantitative approach while emphasizing race-conscious policy.

He has dedicated nearly ten years combined of service across California’s public K-12, California State University, and Community Colleges system, where he led efforts related to college access, mentoring at-promise youth of color, and strengthening minority-serving programs in higher education. Currently, he serves as a Research Assistant for the Community College Higher Ed Access Leadership Equity Scholarship (CCHALES) Research Collective at San Diego State University, where he supports a project on how Institutional Research Offices promote equity in the community college sector, and a grant-funded project that explores the ways community college equity leaders advance racial equity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, he was selected as an Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) Pre-Doctoral Fellow. Rogelio is a proud Cal State San Marcos alumnus, where he majored in Human Development (counseling emphasis) and participated in the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) and Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). After the fellowship, he will initiate UCLA’s Ph.D. in Higher Education & Organizational Change program, where his work on dual enrollment, community colleges, and college promise programs will continue.

As the Pathways to College Fellow, Rogelio will help gather information on dual enrollment practices and policy that are advancing racial equity and strengthening access across California’s communities of color.