What is Needed to Support Young People of Color to Achieve a Career in Education

By the Future Education Leaders Network (FELN) Research Fellows

The Future Education Leaders Network, a Rennie Center initiative built by and for young professionals working in education, has served as a space for those earlier in their careers to come together to build long-lasting networks, learn from peers and experts in the field, and take action in their communities. In an attempt to expand the reach of the Network and amplify the voices of its participants, the program piloted the FELN Research Fellowship in 2022. Following an application and interview process, three fellows were selected to review literature on a particular topic, discuss findings with experts, practitioners, and each other, and use their personal experiences to think through how stakeholders can take action.

The three FELN Research Fellows chose to focus on how to support young people of color interested in working in the education space. They developed their topic, engaged in a literature review to examine external research, and interviewed professionals in the education field to learn from their knowledge base and lived experiences.

The resulting op-ed blog posts focus on the push and pull young people of color face in their pathways to education, detailing research regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion and what effects a lack of representation can have on prospective educators and education advocates. The fellows highlight what current research shows about financial, social, and emotional barriers to educators entering and remaining in the field. They also shed light on their own personal experiences and share their reflections from having gone through the education workforce pipeline themselves.


Emily Su Ni Thoman
Emily is a third-year Social Policy PhD student in the Economic and Racial Equity concentration at Brandeis University. She received her MS in Criminal Justice with a sub-concentration in Strategic Management and her BA in Political Science and History with a minor in Education, both from Boston University. Prior to her doctoral studies, Emily worked as a college advisor with College Advising Corps at Charlestown High School in Charlestown, Massachusetts. She currently works as a Project Manager for the Second Chance Act Grant with the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services and as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Institute for Economic and Racial Equity. Click here to read more about Emily’s reflections on the reality of the financial toll people of color disproportionately face in becoming–and remaining–a teacher in the United States.



Andrew Pablo
Andrew is currently seeking a Master’s degree in educational policy. Prior to entering this program, he served as a special education teacher at KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy in Denver, Colorado where he worked with and created curriculum for students with learning disabilities. He previously worked as a 9th and 10th-grade resource specialist and English Language Development teacher at LIFE Academy, a public school in Oakland Unified School District. Andrew taught, organized support services, and created each of his student’s Individualized Educational Plans (IEP). He also took the opportunity to work with one of the Oakland Unified School Board members as their intern, where he played a role in the passing of different measures such as the “George Floyd Resolution” and “Housing for All” policy (Board Policy 7351). It was through that experience that Andrew discovered his passion for education policy, which led to his current pursuit of a Master's program in educational policy. Click here to read more about Andrew’s reflections on how administrators can best support teachers.



Simone Ngongi-Lukula
Simone is an Education Equity Fellow at MassINC. In her role, she examines structural barriers in education and conducts research on how the Commonwealth can address the urgent needs of students and families whose identities have been marginalized. Simone has a background in public policy and STEM education research. She earned a B.A. from Boston University, Wheelock College, and an M.S.Ed in Urban Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania, and she is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Education Policy at the University of Washington. Click here to read more about Simone’s reflections on what is needed to support young people of color to achieve a career in education.