In 2013, I left my job as an educator to become the second half of a start-up organization, Education Opens Doors. Naturally, as most people would, I (and my husband) had some reservations. The organization had only existed for 9 months! We certainly questioned… “Will I get a paycheck each month?” “Will I have a job in 2 months when school starts?” In light of these risks, why did I jump on board? Jayda, the Founding Executive Director, was on to something innovative, and I was ready to be a part of it.
As an educator, I was drawn to the foundation of our mission. Education Opens Doors came into existence when Jayda, a middle school science teacher, acted upon her realization that an escape from poverty or pursuit of higher education in our country would not occur as a result of decent or even high state test scores. Teaching traditional school subjects like science, math, language, and history alone weren’t enough. More needed to be done. Along with strong academics, students need to know HOW to purposefully get through high school and attend college.
Many of us have muddled through the process of piecing together IKEA furniture. We could all do it with ease “If only I had instructions!” or “If only the instructions made sense!”, right? For most students, getting to and paying for college is a highly complex process (especially for first generation college students) amplified by the fact that schools rarely give them instructions on how to put the pieces together! EOD’s Roadmap to Success is the instruction manual for pursuing higher education,catering to the specific gaps in knowledge students may have.
After my first meeting with Jayda, I left wondering how it was possible the program didn’t already exist. What an oversight by the field of education! A student’s success beyond the current academic year is hard to prioritize and is often overlooked in urban schools. Each day with EOD, we work hard to focus on the specific needs of the students we serve and how we can contribute to empowering them with the information needed to realize and attain their future educational aspirations.
Since starting as the Curriculum Specialist, the student manual has evolved from a 150 page manual of mostly text (built in Microsoft Word) to a 238 page interactive workbook specially designed with activities to engage and inform students, vocabulary words and exercises to further student learning, and hundreds of visual icons to inform students of tips, key points, mindset changes, and necessary action steps.
The classroom program has developed from a 12 lesson pilot into two separate programs crafted to be scaffolded across two instructional years with a total of 40 lessons and 9 additional optional lessons. These have been developed and refined based on research, student and teacher focus groups, and ongoing feedback collected in hundreds of classrooms by our growing team of Impact Managers. Each lesson is accompanied with a user-friendly Powerpoint, lesson plan, printable check for understanding, and extension activity. All of this is intentionally designed to alleviate the burden of extra planning and preparation for program teachers.
Three years ago, I took a leap of faith to work with Education Opens Doors. Since making that decision, I have been the lead architect of the Roadmap to Success curriculum–taught by teachers and mentors to over 15,000 students across North Texas (with over 8,000 more expected to participate this coming school year!). My hope today is that those students will also take a leap of faith in pursuit of an education that they fully deserve.
Written by Courtney Fadley, Curriculum Specialist