Guest Column: My unexpected post-grad 'Success'

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The last few weeks of the school year are an interesting time to be a bartender at He’s Not Here. Two years ago, as I served blue cups to my fellow seniors, I realized I was standing at a crossroads. I knew I wanted to pursue a challenging career — but I also wanted to make a difference. 

Shortly after graduation, I sat down for coffee in New York City with a UNC alumna who told me I needed to check out Success Academy — it could provide me with exactly what I was looking for. She had launched her career in banking, and then spent several years at Success on their business operations team. 

She told me how individuals with a wide range of talents seek out Success, whose schools are agents of change in low-income neighborhoods. Their network office hires trendsetters for their digital media team, artists in creative content, activists in advocacy and journalists in communications, along with renowned educators to write their own curriculum. Former Condé Nast editors, marketers of globally recognized brand portfolios and high-profile political campaign managers have all found themselves here. The diversity of their skill sets helps change the game of education reform to build opportunities for children. 

I studied philosophy and sociology and had no prior classroom experience, but I found myself applying and being accepted to the Success Academy Teacher Residency Program. The program allows new teachers like me to work alongside lead teachers and grow as education professionals. I receive regular feedback on how to integrate the best practices into my teaching, as well as training in project, people and performance management skills. 

My friends are often curious about my experience working for a school that prioritizes the professional growth of adults as a key component to effectively educating students. I tell them about the feeling of making an impact —like when a student who comes to us from a failing district school finally catches up and scores at the top of the class. The resulting confidence and joy that inevitably unfolds never fails to inspire.

I regularly compare our class results with the 29 other elementary schools in our network; we all chase excellence, while simultaneously ensuring that school is a supportive place for our students. We’re making a significant difference in the lives of thousands of kids — and we’re doing it with the combined efforts of a substantial network of innovators.

So to all those savoring their graduation accomplishments while contemplating what they’ll be doing this time next year: If you think Success sounds like an intriguing place, feel free to email me at zachary.bijesse@sashools.org with your questions. I’m always happy to catch up with fellow Tar Heels.

Go Heels! 

Thanks for reading.

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