Allison Cox Fights Education Inequity in Boston Public Schools

After working for three years in Zambia with the United States Peace Corps, Allison joined Citizen Schools in order to “make the transition to a more education-focused career.” She became a Teaching Fellow in 2006 and was placed at the Washington Irving Middle School in Boston. Like her students at Citizen Schools, Allison has now stepped into the high school classroom. She is currently Project Manager at Upward Bound Math & Science at Boston University where she handles the logistics of this federally-funded program for low-income high school students. While at the Irving, Allison was a Citizen Teacher Liaison and, for most of her two years, a floater. As she puts it, she was in charge of communication between everyone at her campus. In both of these roles, CTL and floater, Allison had the opportunity to handle the “logistics of supervising a youth program.” She loved having that “sense of ownership” over the relationships she was asked to build and maintain. Despite the challenge of the age group, Allison “had a really great time with middle schoolers.” She still keeps in touch with some of her students from Citizen Schools and, in fact, one former student is now enrolled at the BU Upward Bound Math & Science program.

As a Teaching Fellow, Allison learned how to manage behavior in the classroom as well as how to teach and orient less-experienced team members. In addition, she gained experience in facilitating relationships between schools and outside organizations. In her own words, Allison learned “how to manage relationships with schools and maximize benefits for everyone.” Allison left Citizen Schools with substantial experience in education program management and an interest in continuing in the field of urban education. With her previous interest in science, a Masters’ Degree in Civil Engineering, and her newfound knowledge of youth education, Allison headed directly from Citizen Schools to join the staff team at Upward Bound Math & Science.

Upward Bound was founded in 1965 as a part of the federally-funded TRIO programs. The program provides academic support in the form of after-school programs, college preparation, and a six-week summer program to students in low-income families or students who will potentially be the first to attend college in their families. The math- and science-specific program at BU serves three high schools – Brighton High School, Charlestown High School, and Chelsea High School. Students join in the ninth or tenth grade and stay with the program until high school graduation.

Citizen Schools and Upward Bound work with a similar population of students. Both organizations see the inequalities in the education system, recognize the factors that affect “who has access to higher education,” and work hard to rectify this tricky imbalance. Allison spends her days supervising teachers, planning curriculum, communicating with parents, meeting with struggling students, schedule preparation, and general logistics.

In addition, she teaches a workshop for seniors that provides information on writing college essays and applying for financial aid and scholarships. She wants to make sure her students not only make it to college, but that they “persist in college.” This split role of student interaction and logistical work is a great fit because, as Allison puts it, “teachers are often limited in what they can do with the curriculum.” She admits, however, that she sometimes misses the energy of a consistent teaching position. One of the best parts of her job, she says, is late April when the students get their college acceptance letters. The summer program is another highlight for Allison; she describes it as “six weeks of WOW!” where students continually “rise to expectations.”

In the distant future, Allison is considering school administration positions or even living abroad again. For the time being, however, she has settled into her role at Upward Bound. She continues her passion for handling the logistics that make advancements in education possible. Allison has put to good use her expertise in teaching, managing, and experience in the realm of educational inequality for high schoolers. And in accordance with her current work, she urges a stronger commitment to Boston Public schools that still need so much support.