Press Release


Fellowship will create a platform that will help shape educational equity in California

CALIFORNIA – Today, The Education Trust–West, an advocacy organization for educational justice and the high academic achievement for all California students, announces the selection of its first cohort of Senior Equity Fellows. Comprised of public policy, business, academic, and community leaders, these eight fellows will participate in a fellowship designed to provide a platform to for California’s educational equity leaders. Fellows were selected based on their contributions and commitment to creating policies and practices that rapidly improve the lives of disenfranchised youth, including students of color, English learners, and low-income students.

“Although California is one of the most diverse states in the union, the state doesn’t do enough to elevate the voices of key education leaders from across California,” says Education Trust–West Executive Director Ryan J. Smith. “We hope that our Senior Equity Fellows will help shape the state’s future educational equity policies and practices as well as advocate for equitable education for all of California’s students.”

“Far too many children in California have to overcome economic and social barriers in order to even begin competing at the same level as their peers– resiliency and perseverance become part of their daily efforts to succeed.” says José Atilio Hernández, Senior Equity Fellow and founder and President of IDEATE California. “This fellowship provides an opportunity for my colleagues and I to further develop and advocate for the solutions that will impact our most vulnerable students.”

The Senior Equity Fellows, whose profiles are below, will be available for speaking engagements, research opportunities, and participation in taskforces that advance equitable education in the State of California.

Dr. Tyrone C. Howard is professor in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. He is also the associate dean for equity, diversity and inclusion, and he is the director and founder of the Black Male Institute at UCLA. Professor Howard’s research examines culture, race, teaching, and learning. He has published over 80 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and technical reports. His most recent book, “Expanding College Access for Urban Youth” (Teachers College Press, 2016) documents ways schools and colleges can create higher education opportunities for youth of color, and he also recently published “Black Male(d): Peril and Promise in the Education of African American Males.” Dr. Howard was the recipient of the 2015 UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award. In 2016 and 2017, Dr. Howard was listed by Education Week as one of the 50 most influential scholars in the nation informing educational policy, practice, and reform. In 2017, The American Educational Research Association honored Dr. Howard as an AERA Fellow.

Francisca Sánchez has served in a variety of leadership, administrative, and teaching positions at the district, county office, regional, and state levels, including as associate superintendent for educational services with Hayward Unified School District, and chief academic officer for San Francisco Unified School District. She also served as president of the California Association for Bilingual Education for two terms. Francisca has been named to a number of influential national and state task forces and served for many years as a member of the statewide Curriculum & Instruction Steering Committee. This year, she was elected to the Board of the National Association for Bilingual Education and serves as secretary on the Executive Council. She is currently CEO of Provocative Practice™, an educational consulting organization, and a poet, “word weaver,” educator, and former English learner.

José Atilio Hernández has worked for the past eighteen years developing and implementing policy solutions at the local, state, and federal levels. Currently, Mr. Hernández serves as the founder and president of IDEATE California, a public relations and policy management firm. He is also the founder of ideateLABS, a non-profit policy think tank and training lab. Prior to IDEATE California, Mr. Hernández served as director for external affairs and community relations for ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career. Mr. Hernández worked for six years in the California State Senate as the director of policy and development, and he is currently board member on the California Public Utilities Commission’s Low-Income Oversight Board. Mr. Hernandez began his public engagement and community relations work at Latino Issues Forum. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of California at Berkeley.

Dr. Andrea Venezia is an associate professor in the public policy and administration department and executive director of the Education Insights Center (EdInsights) at California State University, Sacramento. Her work focuses on improving student readiness for, and success in, postsecondary education, particularly for students who are traditionally underserved. She also runs the CSU Student Success Network and co-runs the California Education Policy Fellowship Program. Before she joined Sacramento State, Andrea worked at WestEd, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, Stanford University’s Bridge Project, and a variety of other state, federal, and nonprofit organizations. She has authored, co-authored and co-edited numerous reports, chapters, articles, and books. Andrea received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Pomona College, a Master of Arts in Administration and Policy Analysis in Higher Education from Stanford University, and holds a Doctorate in Public Policy from University of Texas at Austin.

Betty Hung is Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA’s policy director, overseeing the organization’s strategic policy and advocacy initiatives to promote equal access and equal justice for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) communities in solidarity with other underserved communities. Betty helped to co-found the national Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) DACA Collaborative as well as the statewide multiracial College for All Coalition. The College for All Coalition partnered with Senate Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon in 2016 to enact landmark state legislation that promotes equal opportunity, access, and success for low-income and underrepresented students to attend and graduate from California’s public universities. Betty is actively involved in intersectional movement building and serves on the boards of several community organizations. She has been honored by Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), National Lawyers Guild, and Sexual Assault Crisis Agency. Betty is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School.

Pastor Samuel J. Casey serves as the executive director of Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE). COPE, founded in 2000, is dedicated to building effective leadership among clergy, community members, and parents through local, regional and national trainings that build the capacity of individuals to revitalize the communities in which they live, work, and worship. COPE has successfully organized and led outreach campaigns in support of San Bernardino City Unified School District’s Task Force for African American Student Achievement and the Local Control Funding Formula. Pastor Casey has received numerous awards for his social justice/prophetic work in the community, including the 2012 NAACP Advocacy and Justice Award. Pastor Casey is the Senior Pastor & Founder of New Life Christian Church.

Aurea Montes-Rodriguez is the executive vice president of Community Coalition, a social justice non-profit based in South Los Angeles that serves as a vehicle for everyday residents to tackle the most pressing community issues. She possesses a wealth of experience as a community organizer and champion for equity. Aurea oversees the strategic direction of the education reform campaigns to address the role policy plays in creating a more equitable society that can dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and develop the next generation of leaders. Aurea is a co-founder of Partners for Children South LA, a multiagency initiative that seeks to improve children’s development and reduce the risk of involvement with the child welfare system. She is also a member of the Building Movement Project working to build capacity within the non-profit sector to promote social justice at the national level.

Dr. Connie Wun is the founder and director of Transformative Research, an institute that trains organizations and community groups in community-driven research and data analysis and also works with agencies as a strategic partner on issues of racial/gender advocacy. In this capacity, Dr. Wun has worked with organizations such as Girls for Gender Equity in NYC. She has also been the recipient of the National Science Foundation Fellowship, American Association for University Women Postdoctoral Fellowship, and University of California at Berkeley Chancellor’s Fellowship. She is a former high school teacher, Advocate for Sex Workers, and Anti-Sexual Assault Counselor. Dr. Wun holds a Doctorate in Education from UC Berkeley. Her work has been published in Critical Sociology, Educational Policy, Educational Theory and Practice and Race, Ethnicity, and Education. She has also written for The Feminist Wire and and is currently working on a book manuscript on schools and violence against girls of color.

About The Education Trust–West

The Education Trust—West works for educational justice and the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-K through college, in the state of California. We expose opportunity and achievement gaps that separate students of color and low-income students from other youth, and we identify and advocate for the strategies that will forever close those gaps.