Many of you may know or may have forgotten that I spent three years working in the gaming and entertainment industry ... I know, clutch your pearls! Anywho ... in the gaming industry when placing a bet one often hears the term trifecta.
A trifecta is a bet placed on a horse, where the bettor must predict which horses will finish first, second and third, in the exact order.
Well I’m not much of a gambler, so I’m not going to put this group of dynamite women in any particular order, but when it comes to the future of our youth I’d bet on these women every day of the week … and so should you!
Andrea Neely has been leading the efforts of United Negro College Fund for the last 13 years. The mission of UNCF is to build a robust and nationally recognized pipeline of under-represented students who become highly qualified college graduates. Andrea manages office operations not only for the state of Indiana but Ohio as well. If you find yourself in the same room with her, you instantly feel the energy and passion she has when it comes to the matters involving investing in our youth! Under her leadership, UNCF has raised a whopping $68 million, which has been utilized to support 37 UNCF colleges and provide critical monetary resources for minority scholars attending colleges and universities throughout Indiana. When it comes to our youth and their pursuit of higher education, she is not afraid to challenge the norms or ask the hard questions around educating our Black and brown children.
Now there is something to be said about a woman who can put together a string of words that make us all stand up and take notice. Let me tell you something about an amazing journalist that I must bring into the fold. Shannon Williams is a graduate of Jackson State University! Yes, that’s right, she attended an HBCU! Shannon currently serves as the senior vice president of community engagement at The Mind Trust, an organization that is committed to ensuring that all of our youth have access to a “high-quality, world-class education.” Shannon leads efforts to engage the community, both grassroots and civic leaders. Some of Shannon’s responsibilities include engaging our faith leaders in conversations around education. She partners with Andrea (UNCF) to open up doors for people in our community to share their hopes and concerns about education and offer input about our children’s needs. Shannon also is spearheading a new parent organizing initiative because, as we know, parent involvement is so important and significantly improves the classroom experience both for teachers and students. Shannon has a voice and has utilized pen and paper and a microphone to engage our community and share important information. Who better to advocate for our kids than Shannon Williams?
To complete the trifecta, let us get up on our feet and put our hands together for our newly appointed Indianapolis Public School superintendent, Aleesia Johnson! While Superintendent Johnson is new to her role, she is not new to the world of education. She comes from a long line of educators, including her mother and grandfather. Superintendent Johnson has committed to student-centered teaching and learning. In other words, she’s focusing on our kids! She has shared on many occasions that she wants to ensure that she has a high-performing team. And she recognizes that she must engage IPS families, her entire team and community partners to ensure that our kids are successful.
I admitted earlier that I’m not much of a gambler, nor am I an educator. However, I’m passionate about serving our youth and seeing that they have every opportunity possible to become productive citizens! I’ve watched these three women stand together, united for the sake of our children. I have witnessed them lead very challenging conversations about access to quality education and watched them burn the midnight oil to find solutions for problems that were impacting our youth.
I’ve even read and heard some pretty hurtful comments made about their motives. Yet, despite all the criticisms, this dynamic trio continue to respond like the true leaders they are! With these three ladies fighting for our kids and serving as role models, I am convinced that our children’s futures look bright! So, I said at the start and I’ll say it again: If you are looking for that perfect trifecta when it comes to educating our children, I’d bet on Andrea, Shannon and Aleesia any day of the week!
I guarantee you it’s a winning combination for our children, our families and our community.
Maggie A. Lewis is member of the City-County Council of Indianapolis and Marion County.