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Teach For America Indianapolis (TFA Indy), a leadership development organization that fosters a diverse network of leaders committed to ending educational inequity beginning with two years of effective teaching in a public school, announced the selection of sixteen professionals of color to take part in its inaugural cohort of the Foundation for Racial Equity in Education (F.R.E.E.) Fellowship for Young Leaders of Color, which develops early-career educators of color through race-based coaching and programming.

The fellowship offers early-career leaders of color consistent access to specialized professional development, executive coaching, skill building and community. In partnership with the Indianapolis Collective, TFA’s local network for alumni of color, the 2020-21 F.R.E.E. Fellows will expand their capacity to create a positive impact on students and families in Indianapolis, cultivate efficacy and excellence in their roles, and increase access to expanded leadership opportunities in the near- and long-term.

“Now is the time to invest in education leaders of color in Indianapolis,” says JuDonne Hemingway, TFA Indy’s managing director of corps member development, who oversees the F.R.E.E. Fellowship. “F.R.E.E. provides an opportunity for leaders of color to share their unique successes and desire to grow their impact in a city that welcomes innovation, ingenuity and inclusiveness. Together, F.R.E.E. fellows will build on their skill sets and identify ways to accelerate the pace of change in our community. I am so grateful for the organizational partners and initiatives seeking to prioritize these leaders and their work.”

The 2020-21 cohort of F.R.E.E. Fellows are:

Idalmi Acosta, English Teacher, Riverside High School
Sabre Adams Poff, Sixth Grade Math and Science Teacher, Gary Lighthouse Upper Academy
Lexia Banks, Seventh and Eighth Grade Social Studies Teacher, R.B. Hudson STEAM Academy, Selma City Schools District
Jessica De La Cruz, Spanish Teacher, Indianapolis Metropolitan High School
JaVaughn Hardaway, Interventionist, IPS Longfellow Medical/STEM Middle School 28
Chassity Hutchins, Reading Teacher, KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools
Alyssa McIntyre, Social Studies Teacher, Vanguard Collegiate
Lauren Lopez, Program Manager, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, The Ohio State University
Juanita Price, Second Grade Teacher, Indianapolis Public Schools
Seth Shoopman, First Grade Teacher, KIPP Indy Unite Elementary
Phylicia Spears, Seventh Grade Science Teacher, Marquette School of Excellence, Chicago Public Schools
Gargi Sundaram, Science Teacher, Emmerich Manual High School
Bobby Thomas, Dean of Culture, Believe Circle City High School
Toreya Townsend, Fourth Grade Teacher, Global Prep Academy
Chidinma Uchendu, Sixth Grade English Teacher, Victory College Prep & ELA Instructor, Christel House DORS South
Anthony Wallace, Special Education Teacher, Tindley Summit
“I feel my talent as a teacher will allow me to thrive in an environment that provides opportunity,” said F.R.E.E. Fellow and teacher at Gary Lighthouse Upper Academy, Sabre Adams Poff. “Indy is also in my native state and there is nothing more I want to do than give back to the communities and be a part of changing Indiana’s educational landscape.

A key aspect of the fellowship is development through the lens of racial equity and empowerment. Fellows will engage in race-centered discussions and be coached by seasoned professionals of color in Indy who lean into their racial identity to shape the ways they lead.

Seth Shoopman, a first grade teacher at KIPP Indy Unite Elementary and F.R.E.E. Fellow, is a Black male educator who has seen first-hand how his racial identity affects the way he works with students. “My lived experience and identity has been an asset to the work that I do in that I have experienced trauma, hunger, bullying, economic struggles, racism, and academic and personal failure. This list is not exhaustive, but I have been through enough to know what it will take for my students to succeed in and out of the classroom,” said Shoopman.

Fellows residing outside of the Indianapolis region will receive a stipend to move to the city, in an effort to recruit more high-impact leaders of color. Five of the fellows currently live and work outside of Indianapolis. The first welcome call will kick off in June, and the fellowship will run from August 2020 through April 2021.

To learn more about the Teach For America F.R.E.E. Fellowship, visit www.teachforamerica.org/indyfree.

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