While many Yalies go on to work in schools through programs such as Teach for America after they graduate, two members of the Class of 2005 took a different approach to getting involved in education, starting a new advocacy group for U.S. students.
Last summer, Aaron Tang ’05 and Ethan Hutt ’05 founded Our Education, based in Alexandria, Va. The group’s stated goal is to bring public education into the limelight and petition for legislative change. Though they are working for change, Our Education is not a lobbying group, said Tang — who, along with Hutt, works full time as co-director of the organization.
The organization is currently working to secure around one million signatures of youths aged 13 to 24 for a petition launched on Feb. 24 through its Web site, oured.org. The petition calls for a constitutional amendment securing the right to a high-quality education for all children in the United States.
“We are working on petition drives at high schools around the country and spreading the word at college campuses,” Hutt said. “The effort is mostly Internet-based.”
Tang said the group has received approximately $180,000 in grants from various corporate and nonprofit sponsors. The largest grant — $90,000 from Echoing Green, an organization that offers seed grants to promote social change — was supplemented by sponsorships from corporations such as American Eagle and Ben & Jerry’s, Tang said.
When the organization announced the grant last June, Echoing Green called Tang and Hutt two of the “best emerging social change entrepreneurs” in the world, according to an Our Education press release.
Tang and Hutt, who both attended public high schools, said they became interested in working on public education advocacy while they were at Yale.
“Yale being in New Haven, it was easy to see the divide,” Tang said. “Education has taken a back seat in this country’s priorities for the past 200 years.”
Gabriel Hernandez ’07, who met Tang at Yale, said he signed the petition because he believes youth need to advocate for education to be considered more seriously.
“It’s one of those problems in this country that I think is overlooked,” he said. “Those countries that we think we should be models for have higher literacy rates and lower dropout rates.”
According to the Our Education Web site, more than one million students drop out of U.S. public schools every year, and more than 18,700 public school facilities were found to be lacking or in disrepair. The Web site is peppered with images of beat-up and decrepit public school facilities.
As of Thursday, just over 1,000 people had signed the petition since the launch of the Web site, according to the site’s counter.