Most frequent questions and answers about the Rochester Education Fellowship


We aim to build a coalition to select an exceptional leader to support community partners – including those traditionally never afforded the opportunity to participate –  to develop a bold and innovative vision for the future of education in Rochester, and to lead an enduring organization to support our community in living out its promise.


The Statement of Intent for the Fellowship is live! Read more about the Fellowship here. The priority deadline is February 26 and submissions will be accepted until March 26. 

Ultimately, the Fellow, in collaboration with Rochester families and communities, should decide what this means. However, this Fellowship is designed with the shared understanding that the status quo isn’t sufficient to serve students and families, nor to disrupt ingrained systems of oppression that block students and communities of color from success and generational wealth.

The following organizations act as the Selection Committee for the Rochester Education Fellow search:

  • Jerome Underwood (Co-chair), President & CEO of Action for Better Community (ABC), a Community Action Agency that promotes and provides opportunities for low-income individuals and families to become self-sufficient.
  • Angelica Perez-Delgado, President & CEO of IBERO American Action League, a dual-language human services agency that ignites the potential of individuals and families in New York State’s Latino Community.
  • LaShunda Leslie-Smith, Executive Director of Connected Communities, a group dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty through antiracist community revitalization and equitable resource coordination in the EMMA and Beechwood neighborhoods.
  • Dr. Dirk Hightower, Senior Associate at Children’s Institute, a non-profit that partners with community agencies and schools to equip and support those who work with children and to strengthen the social and emotional health of children.
  • Sekou Biddle, Vice President of Advocacy for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), a nonprofit working to increase the total annual number of African American college graduates by focusing on activities that ensure more students are college ready, enroll in college, and persist to graduation.
  • David Harris, Partner at The City Fund, a nonprofit that partners with local leaders to help build innovative public school systems.  
  • Reenah Golden, Founder & Artistic Director for The Avenue Blackbox Theatre, a theatre located in Historic Joseph Avenue neighborhood created to offer affordable, meaningful, culturally-rich experiences created by artists of color, youth, queer folk and collaborators. 
  • Rick DeJesus-Rueff, Community Member, retired from full-time work after a 44-year career in higher education serving at seven different colleges in a variety of administrative and teaching roles.
  • Mellanye Nesmith, Parent, serves as the Treasurer on ABC’s Head Start Policy Council of Monroe County whose goals are to develop and maintain Head Start as a quality program, foster the philosophy of parent involvement, shared decision-making and improving the quality and effectiveness of the program’s child outcomes. Mellanye is the parent of two young children.
  • Dr. Rita Gaither, Founder of Pearl Resources Inc., a nonprofit committed to eradicating the stigma associated with mental health, providing services for individuals with developmental disabilities, leading people to financial freedom, providing youth opportunities to experience domestic and international travel and providing stability through residential opportunities and leadership programs for young school-age men experiencing homelessness. 
  • Holli Budd (Co-chair), Executive Director of the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation, a Rochester-based Foundation that strives to make long-term and meaningful contributions in Monroe and Ontario Counties with half of its grants supporting Jewish Life, and the other half supporting secular activities with a large emphasis on urban education.

Fellowship Selection

Why is an Educational Fellowship needed in Rochester?

The current challenges facing Black, Brown, and economically marginalized students and families are deeply embedded in the design of the systems and structures of our nation and Rochester.  However, these systems and structures can also be redesigned to produce greater quality-of-life outcomes for all. The Rochester Education Fellowship aims to identify an exceptional leader to support community partners – including those traditionally never afforded the opportunity to participate – to develop a bold and innovative vision for the future of education in Rochester, and to lead an enduring organization to support our community in living out its promise.

What are the key considerations in choosing the Fellow?

  • Deep understanding of Rochester
    • Ability to co-create a vision for educational equity with deep community input and support
    • Has an established local network and positive reputation across multiple stakeholder groups
    • Understands the local and state education landscape, laws, and history
    • Can clearly communicate how oppressive systems, particularly racism, has shaped Rochester’s history and current inequities
  • Theory of education change
    • Has experience pursuing and achieving improved outcomes for underserved students and/or communities
    • Can compellingly communicate the need to balance patience and urgency in education systems change
  • Political Entrepreneurism
    • Can create a bold vision, seek opportunities to move the vision forward while navigating risks, and achieve desired outcomes aligned with the vision
    • Understands power, local and state political systems, and cycles
    • Can build strategic, broad-based support for a vision of educational equity
    • Can lead a strong, healthy organization to execute change
  • Relationships and Influence
    • Able to build authentic relationships with those most impacted by inequity
    • Builds widespread allies and support, from grassroots to grasstops
    • Strategically leverages relationships and social capital to influence outcomes

When is the final selection of the Fellow?

We expect the Fellow to be selected in June 2021, and be announced publicly by the end of summer 2021.

How much planning time will the Fellow have?

The Fellow will have two years of planning time.

Want to learn more about the Fellowship?

Want to join our movement to create to community-centered change?