Since November 2022, Stand for Children and Decarcerate Fellows have been meeting weekly to deepen their deepen their skills and confidence as community organizers, plug into work we and our coalition partners are engaged with in the field, assist in deep-canvasing, attend City Council and School Board Meetings, and other community events.

After the last workshop, our fellows will never look at a blanket the same way again. This week our fellows worked together to accomplish a seemingly impossible task: flipping a blanket over while they’re standing on it. They worked together, strategized, and eventually implemented tactics to reached their goals. The real revelation came during our debrief when fellows shared stories about times they experienced challenges collaborating with others to reach a common goal. The exercise served as a jumping off point to discuss the challenges and solutions that often go hand and hand with working collectively to solve a problem and reach a shared goal.

Stay tuned for more updates from this next crew of community leaders!

Want to attend a Stand Tennessee event but don’t know how to find us? Follow these directions below:

Park in the Crosstown Concourse garage or the parking lot next to it. Please refrain from parking in the 2-hour and food drop off parking spaces as those spaces are reserved and monitored by security. 

Next, walk towards the entrance labeled “West.”

Once you’ve entered the building, you will be standing in the West Atrium. Next, walk straight towards the elevators. They are located at the end of the West Atrium entrance. (Note: You will pass the Christ Community Health Entrance on your way towards the elevators).

Once in the elevator, press the button for the 4th floor. When the elevator opens, you will see this sign pictured below:

At this sign, you will make a right and walk straight down the hallway, where you will see this sign:

Make a quick left and you will be outside of our office doors. Hit the buzzer located under the smaller Memphis Education Fund sign to the right. The receptionist will let you in and will notify us of your arrival.  

My name is Dominique Garrett and I am the new Memphis Communications and Community Engagement Manager with Stand for Children Tennessee. You may have received emails from me inviting you to attend community events across the city or alerting you to take action to make equity in education a reality in Shelby County Schools. For those of you I haven’t yet met, I wanted to take a chance to introduce myself.

I was born and raised in Memphis to two parents who started me off early on my educational journey. When I was very young, my parents subscribed me to National Geographic Magazine, which was the best gift ever at that time. Just seeing my name on a piece of mail in the early ages of my childhood used to light up my day! As I grew older, science became my favorite subject, and I participated in every science fair I could. I went on to graduate from Wooddale High School and later from the University of Memphis with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I’m currently working on pursuing a master’s degree in Project Management … so wish me luck!!!

While my educational experience was enriching and fulfilling, that’s not what I witnessed every day within my community. While it was – and still is – a norm for my family members to be high school and college graduates, this is not the norm for many youths in my city. I soon realized that everyone did not have the same educational opportunities I had, so I started to work with non-profits that focused on educational advancement for Memphis students.

I chose to join Stand for Children because of the valuable impact we are making for the youth of Shelby County Schools and because of wonderful supporters like you! Without your dedication and advocacy, I would not be able to shine a light on the educational equity injustices our community is experiencing every day. It is because of your stories that we were able to influence Shelby County Commissioners to Fund Students First by providing funding towards pre-K, facility improvement, and transportation.

Now that you’ve learned more about me and my role at Stand, I hope you’ll connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And if you know of any community engagement events that we should be apart of, please email me directly at [email protected].

An activist in her own right, Frances McNeil has spent decades advocating for her children – and all children – to have access to the best education and opportunities available.

“I’ve always been passionate about children, I guess because I had a home daycare. I raised my children at home… kids came to us. I’ve always had kids in my life so I’ve always felt passionate about children and wanted them do well.”

– Frances McNeil

Frances is a mother of two, resident of the Frayser community, and relentless advocate for children, education and families in her community.

Frances first joined Stand almost two years ago at a funding rally downtown where we called on the City of Memphis to invest in public education. Two years later, she remains an active participant in our education advocacy and seeks to gain an understanding of changes that she can share with children, parents and families that she knows.

“I stay in Stand for Children because I really want the people with special education (needs) to be just like the rest of the students and receive a good education.”

– Frances McNeil

Frances connects her passion for advocacy back to her own experiences as a mother after years of challenging the status quo for special education students. If one principal had not reached out to her asking for her trust in him, and to provide her son with the education and resources he deserved, her faith in public education for students with special needs would have dwindled. This principal not only restored Frances’ faith in her son’s education opportunities, but his faith as a student once he was given more elective classes and opportunities to express himself.

As a member of the Stand family and Momentum Memphis Graduation Success Task Force, Frances is a key member of our team and driving force of our work. We are proud of Frances and her commitment to supporting youth and encourage all who can join us in fighting for educational equity.

As we prepare to close out 2018 and look back on our work during this year, we find much to celebrate. Our network of passionate staff, dedicated volunteers, engaged parents, and steadfast community leaders has had some significant achievements this year. Here are just a few:

  • More than 4,300 people signed our Momentum Memphis pledge to promote youth opportunity and success.
  • We partnered with Cami Anderson and the Discipline Revolution Project to launch the Memphis/Shelby County Discipline Reform Alignment Initiative, an alignment of efforts to implement and support discipline reform, restorative practices, and preventive measures in Shelby County Schools and the greater community. 
  • Our co-hosted Fund Students First press conference and rally in June drew a strong showing of community support that helped result in the Shelby County Commission’s approval of $12.7 million in additional funding for Shelby County Schools.
  • The Memphis Educational Equity Learning Series has reached more than 300 community members with featured discussions on everything from school discipline reform to charter schools.
  • All ten of our endorsed candidates in the August 2 Shelby County general election won their respective races.
  • We expanded the Memphis Freshman Success Network to 13 local public traditional and charter schools, and have hosted two network meetings with nearly 60 educators since September.
  • Our Momentum Memphis Task Force members have been doing phenomenal work: meeting monthly to coordinate activities, attending school board meetings, contacting elected officials, organizing rallies, and generally pressing forward with the steady, hard work of improving the education environment on behalf of youth in Memphis and Shelby County. 

Our work is far from over; our staff and Task Forces have already charted the course for 2019. We will jump-start the new year with a discussion about trauma and the criminal justice system with the ACE Awareness Foundation and Michelle Kinder, Executive Director of Momentous Institute, on January 8. 

Join us in the new year and help make 2019 a banner year of change for our children.

Momentum 500 Hopes to Drive Student Success

Based on ACT scores, the state of Tennessee considers just 7 percent of graduating Shelby County Schools students ready for college. Additionally, the Memphis child poverty rate is 43% and the city also has the highest rate of opportunity youth (children ages 16-24 who are not in school or working) in the country.

To truly improve our education system, achievement rates and outcomes for students, parents must have a seat at the table and be involved in the ongoing movement to help more children succeed in school and beyond.

Stand for Children member and Team Captain, Bernice Martin, recognizes the importance of supporting student success and works alongside other parents to maximize individual and collective impact for the benefit of students in Memphis schools.

A retired grandmother of five, Mrs. Martin joined Stand for Children in September 2015 and became a leader within the organization earlier this year. She volunteers her time as a team captain, training others parents on how to amplify their voices for greater influence and rallying them to advocate for effective solutions to address education challenges that many students in Memphis currently face.  She also runs a girls ministry at her church and serves as a mentor for young women.

Mrs. Martin recently shared reflections on why she joined Stand and her experiences over the past two years.

                      Mrs. Martin with her grandchildren


My best friend ran for School Board so I was already somewhat involved in education prior to joining Stand, but I became more involved because I noticed a lot of changes occurring within our school system. I’m passionate about children and their future, and I liked Stand’s mission to advocate for all and not just some. Making sure my grandchildren get a high quality education is one of my top priorities. I advocate not only for them, but for all children being affected by education changes taking place.

With my management background, I also felt like I had a unique set of skills to offer to that cause. So many parents don’t have the skills and training to effectively advocate. And often they don’t have time to follow what’s happening in our legislature- they are busy enough with work and trying to get their kids to school on time every day.

So with Stand, it is like parents now have an information hub to stay on top of what’s happening in the schools and in the political arena that may impact their children, and a place where they can learn how to get involved.


We are building an army to fight for our students and we need more people to volunteer and who are willing to get in the ring with us. Stand offers classes to teach parents how to advocate – how to make a difference – and also gives opportunities for parents to learn soft skills to speak on behalf of their child.

When I joined I honestly was hesitant because after retiring, I didn’t want it to feel like a job. But I learned that advocating is sometimes just about showing up to a meeting or event – even if you aren’t the one speaking on behalf of children – or it could be just your presence gives other parents and children the encouragement they need to know someone is in their corner.    


Now is the time. There is a lot happening. A lot of changes are being made (to school systems, education policy, standards) and we don’t know what the outcomes will be or what else may come down the pipeline. So we need to be ready. We need to have our voices heard and considered in decision-making that affects students and schools. We are voters. The right people aren’t always in right positions to do what’s best and with Momentum 500, we can have an army in position to influence them and hold them accountable; or be ready to move them and vote them out if needed.


What is holding you back? In Stand, there are opportunities for all to advocate and we meet you where you are. Get in where you fit in because we are on a quest to make change!

Everyone may not want to speak out or be a team captain, or meet with legislators, but education advocacy starts with you just making a commitment to support children and their best interests.


Momentum 500 is an initiative led by Stand for Children to form a coalition of parents in Tennessee who share a common goal to improve education quality and outcomes.  The Momentum 500 Coalition works alongside parents, school leaders and legislators to enhance academic achievement, school performance, and influence education policy decisions that affect students in Tennessee. 

As Memphis Operations Coordinator and Digital Strategist, Amariah works to improve the education system and schools in Tennessee.

In February, we highlight the contributions that African Americans have made to develop and advance our country and society. Each year during black history month, individuals are remembered and celebrated for their achievements; breaking barriers; and overcoming numerous obstacles. Despite advancements made, African Americans still confront inequities and face discrimination in employment, education, and other areas that affect quality of life. Perhaps the most important area to address to move forward is education – as the children of today prepare to become our leaders for tomorrow.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Mandela

To ensure a fairer and equitable model of education for black and brown students in America, we must all answer the call to intentionally dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline that damages, disables and devastates our nation’s youth. This transformative work is essential to our ultimate freedom and liberation.

Often, the first form of discrimination or state violence black and brown youth suffer is inequitable education and spatial segregation. [State Violence can be described as the policies and practices of repression and control used against marginalized groups by government or legal institutions. The damaging and debilitating effects of state violence can be seen in the courts, workplaces and/or schools.]

Black children and families have been violently indoctrinated into a system in America where learning means learning to stay in your place, devoid of question or complaint. In 1961, a group of courageous youth known as the Memphis 13 challenged this notion by becoming the first to integrate all white schools in Memphis, where historically learning environments and instructional resources are superior. While the precedent for students transitioning from schools that were under resourced and deemed unconstitutional was set in the 1960s, today, inequities in predominantly white and predominantly black schools and resulting achievement rates are still prevalent and striking cause for concern and action.Across America, urban schools are occupied with school resource officers and educators who sometimes confuse typical, adolescent misbehavior with criminality. Zero tolerance policies that lead to disproportionate & automatic suspensions as well as aerosol weapons such as Freeze + P and pepper spray invade hallways and classrooms.

The school-to-prison pipeline results in suspensions of black youth at three times the rate of their white peers, long hours in court opposed to the classroom, and a greater possibility of having a lifelong involvement with the criminal justice system. Throughout the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the fear of the adolescent “superpredator” spurred law makers and school districts to adopt the “zero tolerance” rhetoric into their discipline structures, policies and procedures. By the year 2000, schools were suspending more than 3 million students per year.

In order to begin to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, we must demand discipline models, policies and practices that help, not hurt students, especially our most vulnerable.

Our children’s black and brown lives will not truly matter until our halls are free of aerosol weapons, order- maintenance policing in schools is dissolved, equitable funding reaches the classrooms and zero tolerance policies are no more.

This is the type of work that Stand for Children is engaged in year-round. Showing up, speaking out and advocating to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, graduate from high school prepared for, and with access to college or career training.

We stand in solidarity with our ancestors who learned to read and write while facing death, mutilation, and forced permanent separation from family.

We stand in solidarity with politicians of African descent who led the fight for universalized public education during the era of Reconstruction.We stand in solidarity with Septima Clark and others who developed Citizenship Schools.

We stand in solidarity with SNCC who birthed Freedom Schools during the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi. In the spirit of educator, activist and youth organizer, Ella Baker:

“In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed… It means facing a system that does not lend its self to your needs and devising means by which you change that system.”

Access to a quality school is not equivalent to access to a quality or equitable education.  Despite the fact quality schools are essential, they are only a fraction of the equation not the entire equation. We must and can do more to level the playing field and change the odds for current students and future generations – especially for those students who look like me.

Stand for Children has worked on behalf of children in Tennessee since 1999, advocating for investments in public schools and pre-K and standing up for strong academic standards and quality schools for every child, regardless of his or her race or family’s income level.

This year’s School Board elections in Nashville are fundamentally important to the futures of tens of thousands of low-income Nashville students who are currently not receiving the education they need to succeed in life. Nashville has a massive and growing achievement gap between white students and students of color, and the number of schools on the state’s Priority List has more than doubled on the current School Board’s watch. It is absolutely crucial to elect School Board members who will work collaboratively, pragmatically and effectively to close that gap and increase the quality of Nashville schools.

Notwithstanding the misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric, here are the facts. The overwhelming majority of the $708,080 spent by the Stand for Children, Inc., Independent Expenditure Committee in this report has been to defeat virulently anti-public education candidates in state Republican legislative primaries. 

The $216,540 the Stand for Children, Inc., Independent Expenditure Committee has spent to educate voters in four Nashville School Board districts about the stakes of this election and the record and behavior of specific incumbents is absolutely necessary given the array of powerful forces aggressively defending the indefensible status quo in Nashville. Given the context and the urgent need for new leadership that will bring crucial progress for Nashville students, we stand strongly behind those investments in change for Nashville’s children. 

As Stand for Children celebrates 20 years as an organization, hear from one of our awesome parent leaders, Ginger Spickler, on how joining and being involved with Stand has impacted her life.

I first got involved in Stand during the Memphis City School charter surrender issue, as a way of learning more about why that was happening and what it would mean for our schools. Stand provided not only education on the issue, but provided training on how to make my voice heard during the charter surrender and the Transition Planning Commission’s work immediately after. It was incredibly empowering.

One of the best opportunities Stand afforded me was serving as a facilitator in several Stand UP (University for Parents) courses. I was able to share a lot of what I’d learned about how education works, how we can best support our kids in school, and how we can use our voices as parents to fight for better opportunities for them. It was so rewarding to see parents come back week after week for the class (not for my fabulous facilitating, I know!), but because they were learning so much from each other and feeling more empowered week after week. 

 I was able to share a lot of what I’d learned about how education works, how we can best support our kids in school, and how we can use our voices as parents to fight for better opportunities for them. 

Since joining Stand, I have gained a great deal of confidence in being able to speak up about the education issues that affect Memphis children. I even started a website called Memphis School Guide that serves as a resource to parents about how to find the right school for their children. Being a member of Stand definitely helped give me the knowledge and confidence I needed to take on that challenge. I’ve also met people from throughout our community who I may never have crossed paths with otherwise, but who also have similar concerns about the quality of education their children are getting, and how we might do better by them.

I’m a member of Stand because I have concerns about education in Memphis and beyond, and I believe that Stand for Children has been one of the strongest forces locally for organizing parents and other stakeholders to represent the best interests of kids. As a parent, I see firsthand how challenges in our schools impact my own children and the others they go to school with. We can complain about those challenges, or we can try to make them better—Stand helps me do the latter.

For more information on how you can get involved with Stand, visit

This year, as Stand for Children celebrates its 20th anniversary as an organization, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on our history in Tennessee.

Since 1999, Stand Tennessee has worked to improve schools across Tennessee and achieve legislative and electoral victories for all students across the state. With affiliate offices in both Nashville and Memphis—founded in 2001 and 2005 respectively—we have actively worked to organize the collective power of parents, teachers, and community members to be a voice for children and make lasting changes in our education system.

Here are some of our highlights over the past 15 years:

  • In 2006, Stand played a pivotal role in influencing the Shelby County Commission to vote unanimously to fully fund budget requests for Memphis and Shelby County Schools.
  • In 2008, Stand Nashville secured the release of $100 million in lottery funds to create an “Energy Efficient Schools Initiative” resulting in significant savings to be used to maintain school facilities and build new schools.
  • Stand Memphis endorsed and campaigned in 2012 for the new unified school board in Shelby County. Members phone banked, canvassed, worked the polls and reached out to 30,000 likely voters and successfully won 4 out of the 7 seats on the board.
  • In the last two election cycles, Stand Nashville has endorsed and supported five successful candidates for the MNPS Board.
  • In 2012, Stand Memphis was one of the first affiliates to launch Stand UP, a 10-week course for a university of parents who want to set their children up for success. The program graduated over 200 parents across the community.
  • In 2013, Stand saved 42 pre-K classrooms from closure and gathered over 2000 petition signatures, benefiting 840 children state-wide.
  • Successfully advocated for $70 million in federal funding for pre-K in Tennessee, securing grants for both Memphis and Nashville in 2014.
  • This year, Stand Memphis was successful in working with Memphis charter school parents to advocate for the Shelby County Schools Board to pass a charter compact that would start to build a partnership between the district and the charter school it authorizes. In a unanimous decision, the Charter Compact was passed.

And this is just the beginning! None of these great things could have happened without the hard work and dedication of our members, community leaders, great staff, and supporters.

As we continue working in Tennessee to ensure that all children have a quality education with access to college or career training, we want you to get involved to see how you can help impact education in your community.

For learn more about Stand for Children Tennessee, visit