Rick Esquivel and Melody Levine (The Collective)

Rick Esquivel attended the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. Upon graduation, Rick joined Teach For America and after recognizing a strong need for passionate and empathetic educators, he decided to continue providing students with meaningful learning experiences.  Rick is currently the Head of Secondary School at Larchmont Charter School, an academically high-performing school whose mission is to serve a racially, ethnically, and socio-economically diverse group of students. Rick holds a Master’s Degree in K-12 Education from Loyola Marymount University and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Policy from California State University, Northridge.  Rick will be starting his doctoral program at USC this fall.

Melody Levine is currently the Assistant Principal at Santa Rosa Charter Academy, a PUC middle school in northeast Los Angeles.  Melody’s path to school leadership previously focused on impacting educational transformation from the macro perspective. She served as the Director of School Transformation for the Los Angeles Unified School District and as a Senior Educational Consultant with the Consortium on Reaching Excellence, an education network working in over thirty schools across the country.  Melody began teaching in Compton Unified School District as a Los Angeles Corps Member in 1999.  Melody received her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley and holds a Masters’ degree in Education from California State University of Los Angeles.

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The Collective is Teach For America’s National Alumni of Color Association. It is founded on the belief that alumni of color play a unique role in helping students achieve educational equity.  On February 1, 2013, The Collective hosted its first School Leaders of Color Conference in Los Angeles.  Rick Esquivel and Melody Levine, two attendees at the conference, reflect on their experience.

Rick: One of the themes of the day was about how to refuel ourselves in this effort to ensure that students of color in this country have equal access to a quality education.  Which parts of the day offered you the most fuel and sustenance?

Melody: I’ll admit that I didn’t have a good idea about what I was walking into.  I knew that we’d be digging into diversity and talking about educational equity issues, but I had no idea that we’d spend that time learning from some of the most successful and inspirational leaders in education today.  

I was immediately taken aback by the opening keynote from former Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent and education leader Dr. Howard Fuller.  Dr. Fuller has been supporting school leaders in charter networks across the country to rise up to be strong student advocates.  Dr. Fuller reminded us that as school leaders we must understand how to achieve educational excellence within school walls, and also understand the context of the community outside of the school.

Melody: Given your experience of growing a school and leading families and faculty through change, I’m curious: How do you inspire and mobilize communities?



Photo by Mosborne via Wikimedia Commons

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