Future Leaders Program

September 2016 Member Spotlight: Brewer Foundation Future Leaders Program (FLP)

SNAPSHOT:

Elevator Speech: The Brewer Foundation Future Leaders Program (FLP) is an educational access nonprofit that provides academic resources and leadership training to deserving students from the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) in Dallas, Texas. FLP is one initiative of the Brewer Foundation (formerly, the Bickel & Brewer Foundation), which is a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation funded annually by the generosity of the law firm Brewer, Attorneys and Counselors, as well as donor contributions. Founded in 2001, FLP has been recognized by both the Texas State Board of Education and the Texas Governor’s Office, and has now emerged as a national model of public-private partnership. FLP works with 23 DISD partner schools and serves over 300 DISD students in grades 5-12, as well as graduates now attending college. The program is available for free to students from economically challenged neighborhoods in South Dallas, Oak Cliff, and West Dallas. Students are chosen for FLP based on their scholastic aptitude, school attendance, civic involvement, and leadership potential. Once enrolled, students participate in academic enrichment programming on weekends, as well as intensive summer programming for high school students to assist with college research, applications, and more.

NPEA Member Type: Organizational Member
Interviewee: Brittany Brady, Director of Academics and Accountability
Contact Information: BBrady@brewerfoundation.com, (214) 653-4847
Location(s): Dallas, TX
Year Founded: 2001
Staffing: 4 FTE, and 42 instructors hired as independent contractors.
Students Served: FLP serves more than 300 students in grades 5-12 annually.
“About Us”: Our Program, Our Students, Our Staff, Our Advisory Board
Get Involved: Contact Us
Main Website: http://www.futureleadersprogram.org/
Social Media: Facebook, Blog


INTERVIEW:

Click on the links below to learn more, or scroll down to read the full interview.

Q: Please provide a brief overview of your organization, Brewer Foundation Future Leaders Program (FLP).
A: The Brewer Foundation Future Leaders Program (FLP) is an educational access nonprofit that provides academic resources and leadership training to deserving students from the Dallas Independent School District (DISD). FLP works with 23 DISD partner schools and serves over 300 DISD students in grades 5-12, as well as graduates now attending college. The program is available to students from economically challenged neighborhoods in South Dallas, Oak Cliff, and West Dallas. Students are chosen for FLP based on their scholastic aptitude, school attendance, civic involvement, and leadership potential. Once enrolled, cohorts of 25-30 students (divided by grade level) participate in academic enrichment programming on weekends, as well as intensive summer programming for high school students to assist with college research, applications, PSAT, SAT, and ACT prep.

Fifth through eighth grade FLP students participate in classes that focus on writing, mathematics, science, technology, leadership, and debate. FLP’s high school students take courses in college readiness, the humanities, advanced math, and leadership development. FLP classes are offered after school on the campuses of the program’s private school partners—The Hockaday School, St. Mark’s School of Texas, Greenhill School, and The Episcopal School of Dallas. Students benefit from an FLP faculty that includes private and public teachers. An 8:1 student-teacher ratio ensures that each student receives individualized, hands-on instruction. Back to top.

Q: Please share a little more about the history of FLP, as well as its future plans. What significant events and/or people have shaped the mission and goals of your organization?
A: Founded in 2001 by the Brewer Foundation (formerly, the Bickel & Brewer Foundation), FLP has been recognized by both the Texas State Board of Education and the Texas Governor’s Office, and has now emerged as a national model of public-private partnership. In the beginning, the law firm—now Brewer, Attorneys and Counselors—saw a need in DISD and created a leadership program for 5th grade students. Firm partner William A. Brewer III developed the idea for FLP in partnership with Shirley Ison-Newsome, a long-time DISD educator and champion of the community. Mr. Brewer often comments, “we can’t guarantee equal outcomes, but this program offers students the opportunity to benefit from equal beginnings.” After working with this first cohort of students, the firm quickly realized that the need for services exceeded grades 5-8, and they decided to add grades to continue serving these students as they moved through middle and high school. FLP now serves cohorts in grades 5-12 and seeks to develop their leadership and academic skills, as well as to guide them through the college admissions process.

Regarding future plans, we are currently in the process of further developing our alumni program to support our students in college and beyond. We recognize that getting students into college is only the beginning of the journey, and we are researching and developing ways to assist our students in receiving their undergraduate and graduate degrees. It is important to us that this new programming develops organically to address the needs expressed by our older students, so we make sure to talk about this with them during individual counseling support. Current ideas include developing an emergency fund, an alumni board, and more strategic timing in our communications. Back to top.

Q: NPEA is committed to creating a culture of data with and for its members through NPEA Data Counts. In what ways does FLP currently use data to inform decisions and programming?
A: 
We were thrilled to be one of the twelve programs in the NPEA Data Counts pilot project in 2014, and then to complete the inaugural 2015 NPEA Data Collection Tool last year. Our program is relatively young and our data systems are evolving, but we knew from the beginning we needed to track student progress. We still track demographic data, grades, and teacher feedback, and then NPEA Data Counts has helped us to better align the data we collect with federal definitions and key indicators for student progress in the educational access field.

Lastly, I want to note the value of how we set up our academic enrichment and assessment. Each of our classrooms is led by teaching pairs, which include a public and private school instructor working together. These teachers are independent contractors, which means they are both accountable to our program but also free to adapt curricula as best fits their teaching styles and student needs. Since our students come from both public and private schools, this also reinforces that each has value and helps our students bridge any differences they may have with one another. Back to top.

Q: With regard to partnerships and collaborations, how has FLP developed partnerships with other schools, college access programs, organizations, universities, and others to further the organization’s work?
A: Our main partners are the twenty-three DISD schools and four independent schools: The Hockaday School, St. Mark’s School of Texas, Greenhill School, and The Episcopal School of Dallas. FLP classes are offered on the campuses of these private school partners, and as noted earlier, our teachers come from all of these public and private schools as well.

Please email BBrady@brewerfoundation.com if you are interested in learning more about becoming a community or school partner. Back to top.

Q: What challenges, if any, has your organization encountered in doing college access work? What has your organization learned from these experiences?
A: Overall we have had very few challenges, which I think it is a testament to how our admissions requirements and processes have evolved over time to find students who are the best fit for the services we provide. However, sometimes our students’ strongest options for college include the possibility of leaving the state. An overwhelming majority of our students are, or will be, first generation college students. Parents are not always receptive to the idea of their students attending college far from home. We work hard to develop family relationships early on and to have open communication throughout so a strong level of trust is formed. When families trust your judgment, they are more comfortable supporting their children in new and different experiences. Back to top.

Q: Please provide a brief summary of how you came to be the Director of Academics and Accountability at FLP. What insights have you gained from your professional trajectory?
A: I am from Washington, DC originally, and went to school in Maryland. I attended the University of Maryland College Park for my undergraduate degree, where I got a B.A. in English. My time in college significantly influenced the development of my career, most notably in two ways. First, I was a 2nd generation to college student, and when I arrived there it was a rude awakening that I did not know nearly as much as my peers. I developed a real thirst to understand “the achievement gap,” and initially in my English major this involved looking to “diversify the canon” and study literature focused on identity development. Second, during my senior year my best friend was murdered, which deeply affected me. He had gone off to college, too, and we talked often about how we got there and how we were doing, but he just could not seem to get through college. When I lost him it gave me a firm mission to find ways to help people like him; people that deserve more of a chance of success in this world. To me, what I do is truly not a job, it is my life’s work.

I went to study at Princeton because I wanted to work with Toni Morrison, and ended up as a research intern in the sociology of education. I applied to Ph.D. programs in sociology and masters programs in education, and was accepted to programs at Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania. And honestly, I prayed about it, and ended up deciding to attend the Ed.M. program in prevention science and practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). HGSE really opened my eyes to just how broad the field of education is—beyond teaching, principals, and so on—especially within educational access, and I loved the wide variety of backgrounds of all my peers there.

I moved to Dallas to take a job as the community liaison at W.E. Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy in the DISD, which involved developing strategic partnerships for the school. One key insight I can provide from this experience is to treat every interaction and relationship like it is important to you. I landed my current job from a meeting at the school that someone else skipped and I gladly took to learn more, and then treated with importance and respect. When I met my former executive director for this meeting, I realized that FLP would be a good fit for my professional interests in the college access field. I started as a coordinator with FLP, and was promoted to my current director position last year. Back to top.

FLP 4

Q: How has your organization benefited from membership in NPEA?
A: We have benefited from NPEA in many, many ways. Most notably, I love attending the NPEA Annual Conferences. It is easily the best organized conference that I attend; I often find myself struggling to choose among all the sessions that appeal to me, the community of participants is incredible, and I leave feeling refreshed and like I know exactly what my plan is for the whole next year back at work. Last year I particularly enjoyed the Breakfast Conversation Tables, where my table discussed ideas for everything from alumni programming to supporting young men of color. In addition, participating in NPEA Data Counts has been a great experience for us (please see above). Lastly, the NPEA newsletters, digests, and member information requests are always wonderful sources of information and resources for us. Overall, NPEA is simply where we go to learn from peers and to strengthen our program. Back to top.