Students for Education Reform Fight for Educational Justice

Students for Education Reform (SFER) has a Colby chapter and is continuing to grow and make an impact on the community. Club President Dylan Alles ’16 writes: “Nationally, Students for Education Reform (SFER) is a non-profit organization aimed at raising awareness and encouraging action around educational inequity in America by developing college students into grassroots organizers who fight for educational justice in their communities.”

Students involved in Colby’s SFER chapter are motivated activists who are attempting to create more discourse on campus about the American education system. “Our chapter here at Colby is engaged in activism, fundraising and political advocacy efforts. While SFER-Colby is aligned with the national organization’s mission of creating opportunities for community organizing and advocating for educational justice, another main goal of ours is to foster informed dialogue on campus around the current landscape of American education policy,” Alles wrote in an email correspondence.

In order to achieve their goals, SFER-Colby involves the College community in a variety of events: “We… [hold] bi-weekly discussions of relevant current events and policy issues in our meetings, [host] student panels around educational experiences, and [organize] debates and discussions around major topics in the field of education reform,” Alles wrote.

Alles originally heard about SFER-Colby from another member of the Colby women’s cross country team and immediately became involved. Alles wrote: “I heard about SFER from a teammate during my freshman year, and have been involved on the club’s leadership team since my sophomore year and as president since February of my junior year.”

Alles feels that SFER-Colby has promise to make a difference in the world of education and social justice, especially within the Colby community. She wrote, “I have always felt the club holds incredible potential to be a force for social justice work and fill what I view as a disconnect between conversations of educational theory and political discourse. This year, I believe it is living up to that potential in important new ways, in large part due to the fantastic leadership team that I work with.”

Students from all class years are a part of the SFER-Colby leadership team. Alles explained: “Erik Wilson 16, Caroline Vaughan 16, and Libby Huber 17 work on our Fundraising Team, Lainey Curtis 18 and Sarah Carrigan 16 comprise our Political Advocacy Team, and Emily Doyle 16 and Elizabeth Bryan 16 make up our Media Activism Team.”

SFER-Colby continues to spread awareness about equality in the education system. “Education Equity Week during week of October 19 was our biggest campus-wide initiative of the semester. Goals of the week included fostering dialogue around educational inequities and reform movements, through several panels and discussions, as well as raising money for our local partner scholarship program, Future of Maine Scholarship, through our week-long raffle,” Alles wrote.

Education Equity Week was very successful for SFER-Colby. “We raised $738 dollars which is almost 3/4 of the amount we’ll need to fund the scholarship program, which allows local fourth and fifth graders to start their college funds. Winners of a ‘Why I Want to Go To College’ essay contest are awarded $100 each to start their college savings accounts. Of course, in todays world of steep tuition costs, $100 isn’t very much, but does encourage the notion that higher education is a viable option for everyone, no matter where you grow up or how many people you know have attended college.”

Alles also mentioned the Teach for America (TFA) panel that she participated in during Education Week at the College. Alles wrote: “Another main event of the week was a panel and discussion about Teach for America, the educational leadership non-profit that recruits college graduates to teach in high-need communities across the nation. On the panel were myself, a TFA staff member who works in the realm of school and district partnerships, and [Associate Profressor of Education] Adam Howard.”

Alles continued, “[The TFA panel] provided an opportunity to discuss questions that arise on Colby’s campus about TFA’s mission and model. It was an incredibly engaging conversation about how college students who are passionate about education and closing the achievement gap can work for social justice through TFA, while still being aware that organizations like it are ultimately not solving the structural and systemic problems that produce educational inequities.”

SFER-Colby plans to continue increasing awareness about educational equity through attendance of events both at Colby and in Waterville. “Next week, SFER will be attending a public hearing in Waterville about the recent recommendation for the dismissal of the Waterville High School principal. The case presents a valuable opportunity for SFER to learn more about education management in our community,” Alles wrote.