Chandler Nutall is a senior at School Without Walls Senior High School, located in Washington, D.C. She is also a sophomore at The George Washington University, where she will receive her associate degree in general studies in the spring of 2019. Chandler was a 2018 summer intern at The Education Trust, where she explored her interest in education policy and wrote a blog post on civic engagement in the classroom. She is considering studying psychology and criminal justice in college.
You’re in high school and already an advocate. How do you advance education equity in Washington, D.C.?
I push to advance education equity in D.C. through my membership in the Student Advisory Committee (SAC) of the D.C. State Board of Education. As a member, I serve as a bridge between the thoughts and opinions of students and the people who make the policies that impact them. The SAC is frequently asked about the challenges we see faced by students in D.C., and I make sure to mention the unequal amount of resources and class offerings available to students in the district.
What motivates you to advocate for education equity?
I truly believe that education is a jewel to be treasured. It expands your knowledge of the world, opens your mind to understand perspectives that you never before considered, and informs you of your potential and capabilities. There are countless reasons why education is invaluable and because of them, every student deserves equal access to the resources that can help them excel. My hope is that every student, regardless of race or class, will be provided with the tools that will allow them to experience every benefit that an education has to offer.
What’s your favorite quote? Why?
Before my sister and I would leave for school, my dad would tell us, “You are the front and not the back, the top and not the bottom, a leader and not a follower, so give it all you’ve got.” He did this every single morning all through elementary and middle school. Back then, I just saw it as something my dad said, almost like a catchphrase. Today as I reflect on it, I realize that I always looked forward to hearing him say that phrase because it motivated me to try my absolute hardest in everything that I attempted to do and reminded me of what I am capable of. Today, it continues to motivate me, but I also know that unfortunately, not every student is provided with the tools necessary to feel that they are capable of greatness. Every student deserves to feel that they are the front and not the back, the top and not the bottom, leaders and not a followers, so that they can successfully give school all they’ve got.
What do you think are the most pressing education equity issues right now? How can advocates address this challenge?
Throughout my years as a D.C. public school student and now a member of the SAC, I have realized that there is a disparity in the amount of resources, technology, and class offerings available to students in the district. There is even a disparity on the amount of information students receive, like methods of studying for standardized tests and scholarship opportunities. I remember an SAC member mentioning during one of the meetings that her school only informed students of college fairs in the city if they were considered college-bound. It is often the schools that contain the most students of color and the most low-income students that experience these challenges the most. Advocates should pay close to the D.C. public and charter schools that struggle to provide the resources and information that ultimately help students get to college. We must find methods of increasing the availability of these resources and information especially for students of color and low-income students.