It is an honor to join you in this work of building a better world together. Since I began as the new Executive Director of Stand for Children Washington last month, it has become overwhelmingly clear that all of you - our advocates, staff, and partners - are poised to achieve exceptional outcomes in equity and access for all students. With the responsibility that comes with my new role, I want to start our journey together by sharing the values I’m bringing with me and illustrating a vision of our work together moving forward.
My commitment to the cause stems from my own early schooling experiences and family upbringing in Seattle. Both my grandmothers, Christene and Lillian, and my parents, Charlene and Ronald, instilled a passion for justice and education in me that continues to drive my work today. My mother was a math and science educator who knew that every child could learn and perform to a high standard if given the right supports and expectations. She was my personal advocate, ensuring that her quiet, shy Black child was given access to rigor in a system that generally upheld highly racialized tracking systems for children starting as early as first grade. She, my father, and my grandmothers continued to advocate for and affirm me throughout school, particularly when my reality as one of the only kids who looked like me or came from where I came from threatened my sense of belonging in the classroom.
My ninth-grade Grandparents Day with my paternal grandmother, Lillian Franklin, left, and maternal grandmother, Christene Ervin, right.
With that foundation, I have devoted my professional life to ensuring that students of color and low-income students are seen, heard, and supported within the public education system, a system that is in desperate need of disruption. Having worked with schools and districts across the country for the last seven and a half years, I am grateful to now work and serve in the place I call home.
The disruption we must create cannot be done without a collective commitment to engaging in antiracism reflection, systems analysis, and unapologetic advocacy on behalf of young people. I know that good policy and effective organizing are essential to ensuring sustainable results, which is why I’m so honored to join the Stand team. As this organization enters our fourteenth year advocating for Washington students, we are carrying forward our lessons learned to fight for what students, families, and schools need right now.
Our past advocacy has set us up to build upon policies and systems that not only dismantle inequity and eliminate disparities but also produce thriving young people whose identities are affirmed by their school experiences. I know that all students can thrive -- academically, socially, emotionally -- and it is our obligation to build a system that ensures it happens. It is clear that we can and must do it now by centering the needs of those who are furthest from educational justice, including Black and Brown children, children experiencing poverty, children in special education, children in foster care, children who are experiencing school on the other side of the digital divide, and more.
And perhaps because of my family and the broader village that supported me, I firmly believe that this work cannot be done without community-informed problem solving. As Executive Director, I am dedicated to harnessing the power of community to create transformative change for students. The collective wisdom of the body can solve complex problems in responsive and energizing ways. With your voice at the table, we can create transformative change. Without you, we will be less effective. I see it as our responsibility to create an environment that supports your advocacy, and I hope you’ll join us.
As I step onto this team, my colleagues and our volunteers are well on their way to achieving the goals we set for ourselves in January. Our vision in Washington starts with protecting investments that center students furthest from educational justice, expanding student access to counseling services, enacting meaningful criminal justice reform, and establishing equitable access to digital learning. A few days ago I had the opportunity to testify alongside several incredible advocates in support of our priority legislation this year, SB 5030, which will protect students’ access to high-quality school counseling services. With less than half of the 2021 legislative session left, we are standing alongside educators across the state to fiercely advocate for the expansion of the successful Ninth Grade Success program that is already helping students stay on-track to graduation in twenty-three Washington districts.
You can watch my testimony and the powerful stories shared by our volunteers in last week's bill hearing at this link, starting at 44 minutes.
It is with humility and gratitude that I join this team and lend my voice to our mission. Now that you’ve met me, please know that I look forward to meeting you! If you feel as driven by this work as I am and want to connect about how we can build a better world together, please connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about where I’m coming from and where we’re going together.
"We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends." - Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.
Standing with you,
Kia C. Franklin
P.S. I had the privilege of recently joining my colleagues Virginia and Katie for a conversation that we recorded via Facebook Live. If you're interested in learning more about what excites me about this work and what I believe we can do together, I invite you to watch it on Facebook here.