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August 3, 2012 Since 2005, the California Charter School Association has welcomed graduate students each summer from the Education Pioneers Fellowship program to provide their expertise, perspectives and elbow grease to some of the pressing challenges that charter schools face. This year, three Ed Pioneers have been working for CCSA - two out of the Los Angeles office, focusing on facilities and one out of the Sacramento office on civic engagement.

Meet Lisbet Ballon

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Lisbet Ballon is currently a dual degree student at Loyola Chicago attaining a Juris Doctor in Comparative Law and a Master of Arts in Cultural & Educational Policy Studies.

Describe the project you worked on this summer.

As a Fellow, I provided a legal analysis by researching district facility costs, analyzing budget line items and account codes to determine whether public school districts are in compliance with Proposition 39 and are providing facilities to charter school students. My project was aimed at assuring that charter schools have fair access to facilities in which teachers can teach their students, prepare them for college, and students can reach their full potential.

What kind of work are you interested in doing in the future/after grad school?

Before law school, I taught elementary-aged students in the Watts area for five years, and prior to that, taught and created culturally-relevant ESL curriculum for immigrant workers based on Popular Education methodology. Correspondingly, as a former educator, I have a high interest in student's educational rights. My dream work would be within the field of education law, specifically as an advocate for civil rights in education.

What drew you to the Ed Pioneer program?

I chose to become an Education Pioneers Fellow to contribute in creating programs and/or policies that would foster an effective educational system in which all students-regardless of race, color, or socioeconomic status have access to a quality education that will ensure more students of all backgrounds be eligible to attain a post-secondary education.

What has been the most surprising thing you've learned in the course of your work this summer?

This summer I've learned the importance of networking! As a student in Chicago who plans to practice in the LA area, I've learned that networking is imperative in establishing professional connections. CCSA and Education Pioneers have done a great job in facilitating networking events that have connected me with education leaders in the area - thanks!

What was your familiarity with charter schools before working at CCSA? How has your view of charter schools changed?

As a previous teacher and student at a public district, I was unfamiliar and uneasy about charter schools; however, my experience at CCSA this summer helped me understand and realize that charter schools are created in response to a need. Unfortunately, a large percentage of public schools are failing our kids by not preparing them with the necessary tools to become successful individuals in society or prepare them for college. Charter schools not only provide students and parents a choice, but more importantly, are held accountable for student achievement that ultimately leads to vast opportunities for students.

What changes would you like to see in our public education system?

I would love to see a public education system that fosters a learning environment in which all students (regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, color, religion, sexual orientation) can reach their full potential. In this system, students would be priority and decision-making would be centered around their educational needs.

The mission of Education Pioneers is to identify, train, connect, and inspire a new generation of leaders dedicated to transforming the educational system so that all students receive a quality education.

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