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Cesar Chavez Annual Senior Thesis Symposium

Every year Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools, located in the Washington, DC area, have their annual senior thesis symposium. Starting in the ninth grade, Chavez scholars are introduced to the topic of public policy and up until their senior year they participate in several activities that involve public policy. For example, in the ninth grade scholars participate in a community action project (CAP), which takes place during the last two weeks of school. CAP allows scholars to select a public policy topic and collect information on that topic through various methods. When I was in the ninth grade my class chose obesity/healthy eating as our topic. Obesity is a major disorder that is rapidly spreading to the youth more and more each year. My class took recognition in that and decided that we wanted to educate our community on the disorder. Obesity is the result of unhealthy eating; therefore learning about healthy eating as well would only strengthen our argument.

Scholars complete another community action project in the tenth grade, and then once they enter the eleventh grade they participate in fellowship. This year I participate in fellowship, which is similar to an internship with the only exception being that instead of getting paid we receive academic credit. Chavez has partnered with various non-profit organizations as well as government agencies over the years that have agreed to provide fellowship opportunities for their scholars. My fellowship organization is The Center for Education Reform, whose main focus is improving the education system into a system that can sustain for years to come. Each fellowship has a connection with public policy therefore scholars are constantly learning about issues that impact the country. Following the fellowship is the senior class thesis in which scholars select a public policy topic to write a ten to

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A Start To My Journey

The first year of my undergraduate experience was a whirlwind of trying new classes and discovering the path on which I would travel for the next four years. While I took courses with many different focuses, the two most influential classes were a sociology course with a focus on the inequalities that persist in the education system in the United States, and a course on social justice through which I had an opportunity to tutor elementary school students. I learned about the school system through an in depth analysis of overall societal issues and I was then able to watch the effects of the system unfold on the development of young students. These experiences shaped my interest in social issues, and more specifically, spurred my interest in education policy and reform.

Now, as a rising senior at the George Washington University majoring in Sociology and minoring in Human Services and Social Justice, I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to apply all that I have learned over the past few years to my internship at The Center for Education Reform. CER is one of the most experienced leaders in education reform and continues to be an advocate to ensure all students are provided excellent opportunities for their education. CER aims to bridge the gap between policy and education by making sure all schools and teachers have the power to create transformative and substantive reforms in education.

After my first few hours at The Center for Education Reform, I can already see the excitement that backs the work that is done here and I am realizing how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to work alongside and learn from such influential people in the education reform movement. Through this internship, I am excited to

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Environments To Thrive In

A dozen first graders’ hands shot up in chorus at each question, and I might have concluded that their teacher had simply rehearsed the whole performance for the sake of window dressing the tour. But the enthusiasm and engagement I found in classroom after classroom was backed up with awards and recognitions that put this South Los Angeles charter school in a league of its own. Born from the vision of two former LAUSD teachers, the school had taken students–almost entirely from Hispanic families and low socioeconomic backgrounds–from the surrounding neighborhood, and transformed their educational opportunities. By the time I had become involved with this inner city gem, its students were outperforming those in wealthy district schools of Beverly Hills. And it showed.

The tour’s purpose was not to impress parents or attract new students. It had been designed for educators and administrators from surrounding areas to share with them insights into the school’s success. It aimed to improve quality across schools and ensure that students–regardless of their families’ resources or backgrounds– had access to the environments in which they could thrive.

As an intern with the Center for Education Reform this summer, I am excited to find the organization’s mission so aligned with these same ideals. I look forward to applying the coursework of my Master in Public Affairs program toward the research, outreach, and analysis of education quality and school choice across the country. Through exposure to the issues and debates of the reform movement this summer, I hope to gain a greater appreciation of the challenges facing both parents and policymakers, and ideally, help work toward their solutions.

- Matt Beienburg, CER Intern

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